Jaundice in Dogs
Is best known by the sudden development of a yellowish color in their soft tissues

Jaundice in dogs does much more than just turn your pet’s skin, eyes, or gums yellow; it can also cause a very sudden difficulty in breathing.

In most all cases it will also cause an increase in both drinking and urinating while at the same time your dog may be losing weight as well as a loss of body mass.

Quite simply put, it is anything but normal and should be taken very seriously as the dangerous threat that it is.

What most owners do not know, however, is that it can also affect a dogs brain tissue if it is severe enough.


Jaundice in dogs is also known by another name; Icterus. It is perhaps best known for yellowish color that it undertakes in several of your dog’s tissues throughout their body.

Although it is recognized for turning a dog’s skin and the whites of their eyes yellow, it can and does affect other parts of their body as well.

It also will affect your dog’s skin at the base of their ears, along their gums, nostrils, gentiles, as well as the skin that surrounds their abdomen.

This yellowish color that is connected with Jaundice in dogs is the result of high concentrations of bilirubin.

This is a normal bile pigment that is formed as the result of a breakdown of hemoglobin in your dogs red blood cells.

These are referred to RBCs and if there is an increase in rate of RBC breakdown, abnormally high levels of bilirubin will start to form to toxic levels.

Because of these abnormal levels, your dogs system cannot excrete them as they would under normal circumstances.

Because of this, they start to accumulate in their tissues.

However, the levels of bilirubin can also increase if the excretion is slowed.

In most all cases it is the result of a disease that is impeding the flow of bile from your dog’s liver to the duodenum, which is the first section of their intestine.

As the levels of bilirubin increase, they become even more toxic in nature.

If they reach very high levels, they also begin to affect your dog’s brain tissue, which can be a life threatening situation.

There are three primary grouping of potential causes of Jaundice; Prehepatic, Hepatic, and Post-hepatic.



Prehepatic causes of Jaundice in dogs are also known as hemolytic causes as they will occur before the blood passes through your dog’s liver, and will result in a breakdown of their red blood cells.

Perhaps the most common cause of this condition is the result of immune mediated hemolytic anemia. However, right behind this condition is your dog’s worst enemy; heart worms.

While heart worms are well known for causing several other severe problems in dogs, they can also very easily trigger jaundice, especially if it is what is referred to as the vena cava syndrome.

Tumors that affect your dog’s blood vessels, especially those referred to as hemangiosarcoma, can also trigger jaundice.

Certain toxins that your dog has ingested may also be the cause and these include pennies that are composed of zinc, and perhaps one of the most dangerous foods for dogs; onions.

Dog Heart WormsJaundice in dogs can become severe if not treated

Onions can cause several problems in dogs and this is at the top of the list of potential dangers.

If your dog has recently had a blood transfusion, this may also trigger jaundice to occur, as well as blood parasites.

However, contrary to some misconception, blood parasites as the cause of jaundice are actually very rare.


Hepatic causes of jaundice in dogs are the result of disorders that are associated with your pet’s liver.

The most common diseases in this category include hepatitis, which an inflammation of the liver, or cholangitis, which is an inflammation of the bile duct system.

However, in some cases, it may be a combination of both. Jaundice may also be triggered by viral, bacterial, or protozoal infections.

Protozoal infections are disorders that are caused by a wide variety of organisms that attack your dog all at the same time.

Toxic reactions to heavy metals such as copper can also be the trigger point, as well as certain drugs, most notably several in the corticosteroids groupings.

Corticosteroids to some owners are the worst possible drug you can ever give your dog, and this is one reason why.

If your veterinarian does recommend them, you should always seek a second opinion as they are that controversial because of their side effects.

Cancer as well as cirrhosis of the liver is also potential causes.


Posthepatic causes of jaundice in dogs are disorders that occur after blood has passed through their liver as well as disorders where a blockage of the flow of bile from the liver has occurred.

The most common disease in this grouping involves the pancreas, and includes pancreatitis as well as pancreatic cancer.

However, right behind problems with the pancreas, are gall balder diseases. This would include gall stones, inflammation of the gall bladder as well as the bile duct, or cancer.


Jaundice in dogs keystone symptoms are obviously a gradual or a very sudden yellowish tint to your dog’s skin, whites of their eyes, as well as their gums.

However, as noted, it can also affect their ears, gentiles, as well as their abdomen.

But there are other symptoms and signs that you can watch for.

Your dog will also start to drink and urinate excessively while at the same time start to lose weight.

However, if you watch closely, you will see that it is more than just a weight loss that is occurring; they are also losing their entire body conditioning.

Vomiting and diarrhea are also very common signs as well as a difficult time in breathing.

Jaundice is a very serious threat to your dog as it can be devastating to their health in the long run.


Treatments for jaundice will of course depend on the exact underlying cause, and because of this, it will be unique for each dog.

If the jaundice is severe and has advanced enough, they may have to be placed in intensive care until it is stabilized.

A nutritionally balanced diet will then be given as well as vitamin supplementation. In the most severe of cases, surgery will be required, especially if the biliary tract is obstructed or anemia is present.


Jaundice in dogs is an extremely dangerous situation, but in most cases the vast majority of dogs can be stabilized and return back to normal.

However, it is extremely important to note that because of the severity, you should only give your dog drugs that your veterinarian has specially recommended.

Altering the dosage or adding any type of a pain reliever such as aspirin will be toxic because of weaken stage of their liver, and could very easily kill your dog.

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