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What is Jaundice?

Yellow pigment that shows up on a dog's skin, gums, white area of the eyes and ear flaps is called jaundice or icterus. Jaundice is the result of too much yellow pigment that travels through a dog's blood and body tissue. On darker dogs, it may be less noticeable than dogs with lighter fur, lighter gums or lighter skin pigment.

A high concentration of bilirubin is the causation of the yellow discoloration, commonly associated with jaundice (or icterus), within the mucous membranes of the gums and genitals.

Jaundice Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $650 - $8,000

Average Cost

$2,200

Symptoms of Jaundice in Dogs

Jaundice signs are usually easy to detect. Yellow discoloration is visible on:

  • Eyes
  • Gums
  • Skin

Health signs besides a change in coloring would be:

  • Dark or discolored urine
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Paleness
  • Change in the feces, usually will be an orange tint
  • Increased frequency of consumption of water
  • Weight loss
  • Bleeding
  • Increased frequency in urine output

As with lighter clothing, the appearance of yellow jaundice is more noticeable on dogs with lighter skin or fur (white and beige). For dogs with darker shades of fur and skin (black and brown usually), it may be easier to notice the yellowish shade around the sclerae (the white area of a dog's eyes) than it would be to notice it in the dog's skin. However, not all dogs have noticeable physical signs or immediate illnesses to alert pet owners of jaundice.

Types

Jaundice usually results from three types of illnesses. They are/found in:

  • Bile duct obstruction (found within the gall bladder and travels to the small intestine)
  • Liver disease (found within the liver and destroys cells, which cause icterus)
  • Red blood cell destruction (found within blood vessels, the spleen or liver)
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Causes of Jaundice in Dogs

Haemolysis, the destruction of red blood cells leading to jaundice, can be found in blood vessels, the spleen, and the liver. It may be the result of toxins in drugs, parasites, or plants on red blood cells.

Destruction of red blood cells may be linked to:

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Cancer
  • Heartworm disease
  • Trauma

Liver disease and bile duct obstruction are also possible causes. The latter illness is linked to any toxins that affect bile going from the gallbladder to the small intestine during the digestion process. Bacterial and viral infections may also be a factor in some cases of  jaundice.

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Diagnosis of Jaundice in Dogs

For liver disease:

  • To determine if liver disease is linked to jaundice, blood tests are taken:
    • Alanine aminotransferase (ALT)
    • Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)
    • Aspartate aminotransferase (AST)
    • Bile Acids

If liver disease is confirmed, then biopsy tests may be used to determine what caused the liver disease:

  • Fine-needle aspirate - A small gauge needle is used to collect cells from the liver to be examined underneath a microscope.
  • Surgical wedge biopsy - under anesthesia, surgery is performed to look at the abdomen to find the correct area to complete a biopsy.
  • Ultrasound guided biopsy - A large bore biopsy needle is used to collect tissue to be viewed by an ultrasound image.

For bile duct obstruction:

An ultrasound is the common procedure to examine the gall bladder and bile duct.  Radiographs and X-rays of the liver may also be taken.

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Treatment of Jaundice in Dogs

In order to clear up jaundice, the disease that leads to it must be determined. Jaundice is a sign of other illness(es), not a disease in itself. Blood tests can narrow down whether liver disease is a factor: Alanine aminotransferase (ALT), Alkaline phosphatase (ALP), Aspartate aminotransferase (AST), and bile acids. The veterinarian may choose an ultrasound to examine other body parts (gall bladder, bile duct, etcetera).

If cancer is determined, this may prove fatal if the cells are not diagnosed as benign. For malignant cells, chemotherapy may be one of few options to treat a dog diagnosed with cancer.

For liver disease, there are medications that your veterinarian may prescribe, assuming it's not too far along to treat. Some of these medications may also help to lower the rate of inflammation and scarring. 

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Recovery of Jaundice in Dogs

In some cases, jaundice linked to lung disease and cancer may prove fatal if not treated in time. 

Vitamin K may be used to treat and control bleeding disorders, while Vitamin E is an antioxidant to get rid of free radicals that could do damage to the liver. However, a veterinarian will determine if these medications are necessary or useful depending on the diagnosis.

Routine vaccinations beforehand will help dogs avoid the risks of adenovirus and leptospira bacteria that can lead to infectious hepatitis.

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Jaundice Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $650 - $8,000

Average Cost

$2,200

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Jaundice Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Aspin

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Two Months

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Unknown severity

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17 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Weakness

How can i help my puppy?, because he's the only dog experience this disease, before we have 2 more dogs which is 7months old died from this disease called jaundice, how can i help him to fully recovered? Please give me some advice how my lovely boy comeback to his activeness, I'm filipino.

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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17 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. There are many causes for jaundice, and I would be concerned if he is the third puppy you have that is affected by this problem. There may be a blood parasite affecting him, or a toxin in his environment, or an infectious hepatitis in. It would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible, as jaundice is a very complicated disease, and he may require intensive care. They should be able to help narrow down what the possible causes are for you as well. I hope that everything goes well for your puppy.

Oct. 6, 2020

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Half shih tzu half pomeranian

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Three Months

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Unknown severity

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11 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

What i need to do his ear, skin, gums, even his white part of his eyes is yellowish. What i ganna do please help me. I love him so much

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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11 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Jaundice is a very serious condition in any animal, and It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get treatment.

Oct. 12, 2020

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Jaundice Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $650 - $8,000

Average Cost

$2,200

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