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Aina Meducci 2012


The following blog posts is not genuinely from my research but through readings and citation from trusted website. I do not own any of the copyright and therefore you may use it at your own risk


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Jaundice (icterus)

A friend of mine called me yesterday reported that her cat was having a fever. The whole body is yellowish-pale in color including the eyes and the ears. I suspected the cat has jaundice and told her to go the vet immediately. Later that day, she told that the vet says its only a fever.


Jaundice in dog

Jaundice, clinically called icterus, is the term for yellowing in the eyes and skin. When red blood cells break down, bilirubin is left behind. Normally, the liver processes the bilirubin and it is passed through the body as waste. When the liver cannot process bilirubin, and blood contains too much of the chemical, the skin and whites of the eyes (called sclera) can turn a yellowish color. Jaundice is the symptom, not an illness. Oftentimes jaundice acts as a warning sign for serious illnesses such as liver disease, feline leukemia or cancer.

Jaundice is often seen in liver disease such as hepatitis or liver cancer. It may also indicate obstruction of the biliary tract, for example by gallstones orpancreatic cancer, or less commonly be congenital in origin.

The conjunctiva of the eye are one of the first tissues to change color as bilirubin levels rise in jaundice. This is sometimes referred to as scleral icterus. However, the sclera themselves are not "icteric" (stained with bile pigment) but rather the conjunctival membranes that overlie them. The yellowing of the "white of the eye" is thus more properly termed conjunctival icterus. The term "icterus" itself is sometimes incorrectly used to refer to jaundice that is noted in the sclera of the eyes, however its more common and more correct meaning is entirely synonymous with jaundice.

The yellowing of eyes of infected dog


Three main reasons why bilirubin might not get processed through the liver:
  • the body is producing too much bilirubin for the liver to remove;
  • the liver is compromised and cannot remove the bilirubin; or a block in the bile duct reduces the flow of bilirubin from the liver.
  • Hemolytic anemia can cause the body to produce too much bilirubin, while cancerous growths or gallstones can block bile ducts.

Bilirubin comes from red blood cells. When red blood cells get old, they are destroyed. Hemoglobin, the iron-containing chemical in red blood cells that carries oxygen, is released from the destroyed red blood cells after the iron it contains is removed. The chemical that remains in the blood after the iron is removed becomes bilirubin.

The liver has many functions. One of the liver's functions is to produce and secrete bile into the intestines to help digest dietary fat. Another is to remove toxic chemicals or waste products from the blood, and bilirubin is a waste product. The liver removes bilirubin from the blood. After the bilirubin has entered the liver cells, the cells conjugate (attaching other chemicals, primarily glucuronic acid) to the bilirubin, and then secrete the bilirubin/glucuronic acid complex into bile. The complex that is secreted in bile is called conjugated bilirubin. The conjugated bilirubin is eliminated in the feces. (Bilirubin is what gives feces its brown color.) Conjugated bilirubin is distinguished from the bilirubin that is released from the red blood cells and not yet removed from the blood which is termed unconjugated bilirubin (extracellular haemolysis)

Normal elimination of bilirubin

Jaundice of an aged cow caused by liver disease


In dogs and cats, jaundice is most easily seen in the whites of the eyes, the skin at the base of the ears and the gums (and the belly, for dogs). Orange urine and black, tarry fecal matter can also indicate jaundice. As jaundice is a symptom of a greater problem, the skin discoloration will usually be accompanied by a myriad of other symptoms, such as lethargy, diminishing appetite, breathing difficulty or weight loss.

Vets will perform a variety of tests to determine the underlying cause of the jaundice. The most common are a urinalysis and a complete blood cell count (CBC). X-rays and ultrasounds of the abdomen can help look for masses or stones in the gall bladder. If a biopsy of the liver is performed, the ultrasound will help the veterinarian guide the biopsy needle.

Illness that caused Jaundice

In dogs, the leading cause of prehepatic jaundice is anemia. Garlic, zinc pennies and other toxins can also hinder the animal's ability to process bilirubin, as can heartworms (a parasite transmitted by mosquitoes) and lupus (an autoimmune disease that causes the animal's body to attack its own organs). Leptospirosis (which is a bacteria-caused disease with flu-like symptoms that, according to the Center for Disease Control) can infect humans and animals, though cross species infection is uncommon.

In cats, feline leukemia can cause jaundice, as can toxoplasmosis (caused by a single cell parasite, which most frequently infects cats through ingestion of infected meat).


Because jaundice is a symptom, it must be managed by treating the underlying problem that causes the breakdown in the body's attempt to process bilirubin.

Sources: Icterus and jaundice eHow.com, Jaundice, wikipedia, jaundice medicine.net, Manual on meat inspection of developing countries

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armouris said...

more info on jaundice here - Jaundice - Yellow Symptom

Anonymous said...

saya baru dapat tawaran untuk buat vet dekat UMK.

nak tanya beberapa soalan boleh? tapi lagi selesa beremel rasanya. hee.

Aina Meducci said...

thanks armouris :)

Healthtec Software said...

That is usually how it is detected...with the urination,eye and under the tongue becoming more yellow than it was.And it is a liver dis-functioning which needs attention.Medical Billing Software

Aina Meducci said...

yes of course. its all about liver disfucntioning, the yellowish of the mucous membranes only indicate the signs of hepatopathy. :)

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