Jaundice in humans is a relatively well-known condition, but jaundice in dogs is not so commonly known. With many pups not displaying the familiar (and infamous) yellowing, it pays to know the other symptoms of doggy jaundice and what you should do if you think your pooch has it.

Let’s dive right in, shall we?


  1. What is Icterus or Jaundice in Dogs?
  2. Symptoms of Jaundice in Dogs
  3. What Causes Jaundice in Dogs?
  4. Can Jaundice Kill a Dog?
  5. Worried About the Cost of Jaundice on Your Bank Balance?
  6. What Can I Give My Dog for Jaundice?
  7. How Do Vets Treat Jaundice in Dogs?
  8. FAQ

What is Icterus or Jaundice in Dogs?

Jaundice happens when a dog has too much of the naturally present yellow pigment, bilirubin, in their body. Some people refer to the condition as icterus.

When there is enough bilirubin in the body, it starts to change the color of certain parts of the body, alongside the skin. These are the gums, also known as gingivae; the flaps of the ears, known as pinnae; and in the white parts of the eyes, also known as sclerae.

Symptoms of Jaundice in Dogs

According to research, the most obvious symptom of jaundice in dogs is yellowing discoloration of the skin, gums, or eyes, but it’s not the only one. In fact, many other ‘quiet’ symptoms often go under the radar. These can include:

  • Food avoidance, often leading to weight loss;
  • Smelly or dark/cloudy-colored urine;
  • Lack of enthusiasm for regular hobbies, etc.;
  • Extreme tiredness;
  • Skin turning pale and feeling clammy/cold;
  • Drinking more;
  • Urinating more;
  • Orange-tinted poop;
  • Unusual behavior, such as aggression or fear and anxiety.

Dogs with darker fur colors, such as black, dark brown, or dark gray, often don’t show a change in skin tone as quickly as lighter-colored dogs. The yellowing is more obvious in dogs with white, light tan/brown, and light grey fur colors.

If you don’t know what your dog gets up to while you’re out of the house, or you’re worried that your beloved pet has started displaying some odd symptoms, why not consider investing in an interactive pet camera? You can see exactly what they’re getting up to when you’re not around, and you have the opportunity to catch potentially dangerous medical conditions in their earliest stages.

You know your pet better than anyone else, so if you notice any changes in their habits or behavior, have a chat with your vet. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It’s better to be safe rather than sorry.

What Causes Jaundice in Dogs?

Jaundice is not a medical condition of its own. It is always caused by something else, making it a symptom of other medical condition(s). There are a range of medical issues that can cause jaundice in dogs, but they usually come down to one or more of three categories:

Destruction of Red Blood Cells

The process of the destruction of red blood cells is known as hemolysis. The blood cells rupture, like a balloon, releasing everything inside into the plasma and other fluids surrounding it.

This process can be caused by trauma, such as an accident at home or a vehicle collision, but also can by the following:

  • Parasites – dirofilariasis, also known as heartworm or heartworm disease;
  • Cancer – liver cancer is commonly linked to jaundice;
  • Autoimmune disease.

Liver Disease

Liver disease is a generic, catch-all term for conditions that cause a damaged and diseased liver in dogs, including:

  • Cancer;
  • Sepsis;
  • Hepatitis;
  • Congenital liver conditions;
  • Toxic poisoning.

Bile Duct Obstruction

Bile duct obstruction is – quite literally – obstruction of the bile duct. When it is blocked or obstructed, bile cannot be excreted from the liver, which then causes an increase in bilirubin, causing jaundice.

Obstruction can occur because of pancreatitis and similar issues. Diagnosis usually requires x-rays and similar investigations.

Can Jaundice Kill a Dog?

Jaundice itself isn’t likely to be dangerous to dogs – but the underlying medical conditions that cause it, often are. Liver cancer is a condition that comes with jaundice as a symptom, and it is almost always fatal if left undiagnosed and untreated.

Your dog’s skin turning yellow, or any other color, is not normal. It is a sign that something else is going on and should be checked out by a vet.

Worried About the Cost of Jaundice on Your Bank Balance?

Petcube’s Emergency Fund really does help to take the stress and hassle out of a pet health problem, offering you $3,000 of vet care per year, per pet, for up to six pets, to cover those heart-wrenching moments.

No one should have to choose between paying to feed their family or paying for medical care for their beloved furry friends – and for as little as $1 per day, you’ll no longer have to. With more and more people turning to alternative forms of pet healthcare, perhaps it’s about time you took a peek at the Emergency Fund, to see what it can offer you and your furry family?

What Can I Give My Dog for Jaundice?

The very best thing you can give your dog for jaundice, is an appointment with a vet.

Unless you know what – exactly – is causing the jaundice symptom, you won’t know how to successfully treat it.

Blood tests are often required to determine the root cause of icterus or jaundice in dogs, measuring the volume of white and red blood cells, platelets, and other markers.

In some cases, such as with obstructions, x-rays and other internal investigations will need to be performed. Exploratory surgery is also necessary in some causes.

It is only when those diagnostic tests are carried out that you will know why your dog is displaying jaundice as a symptom, and how to successfully treat it.

How Do Vets Treat Jaundice in Dogs?

The correct treatment for jaundice in dogs will depend on the root cause. In some cases, such as with a bile duct obstruction, surgery may be necessary to clear the obstruction. This treatment approach is also sometimes required to remove benign or cancerous tumors, and to treat gallstones (also known as gall bladder stones).

Antibiotics will be diagnosed for some causes of doggy jaundice, and antiviral medication will be prescribed for others. With so many underlying causes, it is important that the specific cause is pinpointed before treatment is administered.


How long can a dog live with jaundice?

A dog with jaundice can go on to live a long, healthy, and very happy life, providing the root cause of the condition has been correctly diagnosed and treated.

Is jaundice in dogs contagious?

Jaundice itself is not contagious in dogs. Some underlying causes can be, however.

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