What are the symptoms and treatment of jaundice in cats?

Jaundice in cats is a serious symptom

If you live with a cat you adore, you will want it to always be healthy, but the reality is that as a living being, throughout its life it can fall ill more than once. Although there are more serious diseases than others, when one of its symptoms is jaundice you will have to worry more if possible.

Therefore, We are going to explain everything about jaundice in cats: its causes, symptoms and more. First, we will tell you what bilirubin is, in this way you can understand a little better everything that we explain later.

What is bilirubin?

Bilirubin is a product that is formed when eirotrocytes (red blood cells) break down at the end of their life cycle (which is 100 days) and are destroyed in the bone marrow and spleen. They go from having their natural reddish color to being yellowish, and that is when it becomes bilirruibin.

It is a complex process where hemoglobin is first transformed into biliverdin and then into fat soluble bilirubin. This is released into the bloodstream and travels to the liver along with a protein.

When it reaches the liver, it is transformed into conjugated bilirubin and accumulates in the gallbladder.. Every moment the gallbladder empties into the small intestine, a little bilirubin comes out with the bile and bacteria. This is transformed into normal pigments: stercobilin (which gives the stool a brown color) and urobilinogen (which gives the urine its yellowish color).

Why does jaundice appear in cats?

The sick cat with jaundice needs care

As you have been able to realize from what was commented in the previous point, the work of the liver is key in the whole process. Jaundice will appear in the cat when its body cannot excrete bilirubin and other bile components.

Symptoms of jaundice in cats

Jaundice itself is already a symptom that indicates that the cat is having health problems. Although it is worth noting that the most obvious sign of this disorder is the yellowish color.

This yellowing of the skin It can be found in the mouth, ears and in areas where there is no fur and the skin of the cat can be seen.

What is jaundice?

Jaundice is the yellowish pigmentation of the skin, urine, serum and organs due to the accumulation of the pigment known as bilirubin in the blood or tissues. Bilirubin is formed when red blood cells reach the end of their life, which lasts about 100 days. These blood cells are destroyed in the spleen and bone marrow, and bilirubin is formed from hemoglobin, which is the pigment that gives them their color. This is released into the circulation and travels to the liver along with a protein.

In the liver it is transformed into conjugated bilirubin and is stored in the gallbladder. Every time the gallbladder is emptied into the small intestine, a little bilirubin comes out with the components of the bile. Finally, and after the action of several bacteria, it is transformed into other pigments: stercobilin (the color of feces) and urobilinogen (that of urine).


Hepatic jaundice

When it happens it is because something is wrong in the liver; It cannot fulfill its mission and it is not able to remove the bilirubin that is entering. Liver cells (hepatocytes) excrete this pigment into the bile canaliculi. that run through the cell network, which passes to the gallbladder.

On the other hand, when the cells have some pathological condition or are inflamed and the bilirubin cannot pass to the bile duct network, this is when intrahepatic cholestasis occurs.

Therefore, it occurs when the liver cannot release bilirubin. The most common causes are:

  • Feline hepatitis
  • Biliary cirrhosis
  • Hepatic lipidosis
  • Neoplasm
  • Vascular disorders

Posthepatic jaundice

It happens when bilirubin accumulates outside the liver because of an obstruction. The most common causes are:

  • pancreatitis
  • Neoplasm in the duodenum and pancreas
  • Bile duct rupture

Non-hepatic jaundice

It happens when excess bilirubin is produced so that the liver is unable to release the pigment as a consequence of the breakdown of red blood cells. The causes are:

  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Toxic
  • Viral or bacterial infections

How do you make the diagnostic?

Take your cat to the vet if you suspect jaundice

If you suspect that your cat has jaundice you have to take him immediately to the vet. Once there, you will have a physical exam and a series of tests, such as blood tests or an ultrasound. In addition, together with the medical history, you will be able to know what the cause may have been.

In cats that have jaundice it is easy to find elevated liver enzymesalthough this does not indicate a primary or secondary hepatobiliary disease. This is only an orientation but an ultrasound and radiological study will always be necessary.

Even before this, the medical history and basic examination will allow the vet to find thyroid nodules, fluid in the abdomen (cystitis) and also know if you have any type of exposure to hepatotoxic drugs.

En este sentido, jaundice is understood as a symptom due to alterations and for this reason, to find out if it really happens is necessary the list of exhaustive tests.

Which is the treatment?

The treatment will depend a lot on the cause, which taking into account that there are many diseases that present jaundice as a symptom it can be anything from taking antibiotics to a change in diet. What you can never do is self-medicate without first asking your vet, as otherwise it could be fatal.

We hope you have found it useful. In this way, you can have the intuition of whether your cat is suffering from this condition and, if so, the vet will be able to examine him as soon as possible to find the most appropriate treatment for his specific case.

Either way, now that you know what the symptoms and treatment of jaundice in cats are, you know a little more to be able to take better care of your cat's health.

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