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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.

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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

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Hero

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Lhasa Apso

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2 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

No Eating
Vomiting

My DOG name Hero is suffering from Jaundice. I am attaching a copy of report and medicines that doctor prescribed. He was hospitalised for 3 days but after that testing again doctors could not find any improvement. So please advise if this prescription is correct.

April 19, 2018

Hero's Owner


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0 Recommendations

I do not see any report or medications here for Hero unfortunately; however it is important to note that jaundice is not a disease but a symptom caused by another condition. Jaundice may be caused by a variety of conditions which may include destruction of red blood cells, liver disease or bile duct obstruction (which are the three main group of causes); the treatment would be dependent on the underlying cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 20, 2018

If my dog ate something that made him sick, how long would it take for jaundice to show?

April 25, 2018

Tobias Omni W.


Hello my pet name is Charlie (husky) 1yr old ,his reports shows increased SGPT to 69mg/dl . And he has haematuria his usg abdomen shows thickening of urunary bladder!! He is not consuming food orally !! No improvement in condition since 5 days !! Can you suggest me the further move

June 6, 2018

Darshan D.

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Miley

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Mutt

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7 Years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Yellow Skin

My dog just died. She was just fine and suddenly became yellow, started urinating blood and was unresponsive. She received a blood transfusion at her arrival to the vet’s office. Two days later she was dead. The vet wont give me any answers and I’m feeling heartbroken an desperate. I want to know what could have happened to my dog.

April 17, 2018

Miley's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Without knowing more about Miley, I'm afraid I can't give much insight into what might have happened, but I am sorry for your loss. Jaundice usually indicates either liver disease or an immune mediated blood disorder, both of which can be quite serious. It would be totally acceptable to ask your veterinarian what they think happened, for your peace of mind. I am sorry again for the loss of your Miley.

April 17, 2018

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Jaundice Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$2,200

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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