Can Dogs Get Jaundice?

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If you have ever seen a person suffering from jaundice, you will remember the yellowish coloring of their skin, whites of the eyes, and gums. Typically, these are the result of a buildup of bilirubin and are seen as the symptoms of a medical condition rather than being considered the actual problem.

Can Dogs Get Jaundice?

YES!

Your dog can definitely be afflicted with jaundice, in fact, it is more common than you might think. Just as you might see jaundice as a result of liver disease in a human being, it can also be caused by the same problem in your dog and is something that must be checked out by a veterinarian at the earliest possible time.

If your dog has really dark gums, you may not be able to see them changing color, but you should be able to see the dog's sclera (white of his eyes) changing color. You might think that a slight discoloration is normal. as certain breeds tend to have lightly colored sclera, but if you notice any changes in the color of your dog's sclera, you take him to see the vet immediately to determine the cause.

Does My Dog Have Jaundice?

Symptoms

There are a few easy to recognize symptoms of jaundice you should be aware of, including:

  • Yellowish color of sclera (whites of eyes), gums, skin

  • Lethargy

  • Lack of appetite

  • Diarrhea/vomiting

  • Fever

  • Pain

  • Excess urination

  • Excessive thirst

  • Weight loss

Causes

There are several well-known causes of jaundice in dogs, including:

  • Anemia

  • Heartworms

  • Liver disease

  • Kidney dysfunction

  • Bile duct disorders

  • Trauma

  • Red blood cell parasites

  • Autoimmune Diseases

  • Long-term use of certain drugs (acetaminophen, anti-seizure drugs, sulfa-based antibiotics)

Diagnosis

The most common method of determining if your dog has jaundice is having your vet perform a physical examination. He may also order a blood test including a CBC (complete blood count) to determine red and white blood cell levels and to detect the presence of excess amounts of bilirubin.

At the same time, the vet may order x-rays or an ultrasound of his kidneys and liver to help determine the cause of his jaundice. In some cases, the vet may feel it's necessary to biopsy your dog's liver to determine whether there are any abnormalities.

To learn more about jaundice in dogs, visit our guide to Jaundice in Dogs .

How Do I Treat My Dog's Jaundice?

The type of treatment for your dog's jaundice depends entirely on the medical condition that is causing it.

Treatment

If your dog is found to have early stage liver disease, there are several medications that can be used to help. Once the liver disease is under control, the jaundice should clear up on its own.

In the event the jaundice is caused by cancer, chemotherapy may be needed if the cancerous cells are found to be malignant.

Many vets recommend vitamin supplements and keeping your dog on a nutritionally balanced diet.


In the event your dog's biliary tract is obstructed, surgery may be needed.


Recovery

How your dog recovers depends largely on the cause of the jaundice and the type of treatment used. In certain cases such as advanced liver disease and cancer, the yellow jaundice that accompanies these conditions can prove to be fatal. With the right treatment, medications, and a healthy diet, most dogs will make a full recovery.

For more information on jaundice in dogs, and to get advice from a vet, please consult Jaundice in Dogs .

How is Jaundice Similar in Dogs and Humans?

There are several ways in which jaundice is similar in both dogs and humans, including:

  • Both humans and dogs can develop jaundice for very similar reasons

  • Both humans and dogs show very similar symptoms (yellow skin, whites of the eyes, gums)

  • In both humans and dogs, jaundice is the observable symptom of a potentially serious underlying medical condition

How is Jaundice Different in Dogs and Humans?

There are also several ways in which jaundice in dogs and humans differs, including:

  • Humans can become jaundiced due to alcoholism causing cirrhosis of the liver

  • Jaundice in dogs can have a significant impact on their ability to breathe

  • Humans are subject to pseudojaundice in which the color of their skin becomes yellowish due to consuming an extremely high level of beta-carotene (carrots, pumpkin, melons)

Case Study

A three-year-old Bassett hound was taken to his local veterinarian, suffering from obvious signs of jaundice. Along with the jaundice, the dog was found to be suffering from raised serum levels of alkaline phosphatase and glutamic pyruvic transaminase and hyperbilirubinemia. These conditions indicated the presence of hepatocellular damage and biliary obstruction. The dog's liver was biopsied twice.

The findings of the biopsies were mild inflammatory damage and intrahepatic cholestasis. The vet treated the dog using a corticosteroid for three months, at the end of which his hepatic functions were found to have returned to normal and the dog made a full recovery.