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My Cat is Yellow: Recognize Signs of Liver Failure

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Yellow skin in cats is a direct result of jaundice, which is a sign of liver problems, just like in humans.
My Cat is Yellow: Recognize Signs of Liver Failure
Last update: 27 December, 2022

Yellowing skin is one of the signs of liver failure in a cat. If your cat shows signs of yellow skin, also known as jaundice, it’s imperative that you visit a vet. Jaundice can happen to cats of any age, race, or sex.

If your cat has yellow skin, it’s likely he also has some of the following symptoms: lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, frequent urination, orange urine, weight loss, and changes in eating habits.

Cause of yellow skin in cats

The main causes of yellow skin in cats are liver problems. These may include fatty liver, cirrhosis, inflammatory problems in the intestines and liver, viral and bacterial infections, and cancer. Some medications and toxins like heavy metals can also cause liver failure.

There are also problems that are not signs of liver failure that can cause yellow skin in cats. This is the case of blood parasites, heartworm disease, anemia, immunodeficiency, and reactions to blood transfusions, among others.

What are the signs of liver failure?

Since the signs of liver failure are not specific, owners may have difficulty recognizing a potential problem. If your cat has stopped eating for two or three days or has any other related symptoms, you should see a veterinarian.

Hepatic failure is serious and can be life-threatening. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical for possible recovery. The liver is responsible for many important functions, such as filtering toxic substances from the blood, digesting nutrients, and storing vitamins and minerals.

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The multiple functions of the liver make it susceptible to damage. Its ability to regenerate, however, decreases the likelihood of permanent damage.

Cats with liver failure may also experience a neurological syndrome known as hepatic encephalopathy. This is characterized by behaviors such as aimless wandering, spinning, and pressure in the head. Loss of appetite and extreme weight loss are also potential signs of the condition.

Diagnosis of liver failure in cats

Liver failure causes an increase in the amount of bilirubin, which causes jaundice and yellowing of the skin, both in animals and humans. A veterinarian will perform a blood test on your cat that will diagnose if the bilirubin count is abnormal.

The veterinarian will also perform urine tests to identify the possible cause of yellowing of the skin. It can be anything from a viral infection, to cancer, to a defective liver. It’s important that you perform as many tests as possible to plan the most effective course of treatment.

Treatment of liver failure in cats

Once the veterinarian determines the cause of yellowing skin, you can make a treatment plan for your cat. Jaundice is something that can’t be treated simply at home since there are many underlying factors that could lead to discoloration of the skin.

Once your cat has gotten the treatment he needs for liver failure, you will want to monitor him during recovery. Cats that have also undergone surgery will need time to rest and should be kept in a small area to promote healing and avoid injury.

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It’s important to keep an eye on the color and condition of your cat’s skin. You should also monitor his feeding and drinking habits, urinary and intestinal movements, as well as his energy levels. The vet will also recommend taking the cat for periodic check-ups after any treatment.

Changes in diet

When the cat has been discharged from the vets, you’ll need to focus on minimizing stress on the liver by reducing the amount of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and drugs that the liver needs to process.

You can do this, in part, by providing a quality diet that is high in protein, rich in calories, easy to digest, and low in sodium. Your cat will need to eat small meals frequently to minimize stress on the system. Your vet may also prescribe dietary supplements.

Recovery of liver failure in cats

If an affected cat survives the first days of treatments, the prognosis is generally good. You can expect recovery within three to six weeks. It’s important that you follow all veterinary recommendations and respect dietary restrictions. Follow-up visits are necessary to ensure adequate recovery.

You should also make sure that your cat isn’t stressed. Find her a quiet place to rest and recover. You’ll need to closely monitor weight, hydration, and the overall health of the cat and inform the veterinarian immediately of any changes.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • https://www.hillspet.com/cat-care/healthcare/cat-liver-disease
  • https://www.manhattancats.com/article-archive/hepatic-liver-disorders/jaundice-when-your-cat-turns-yellow/
  • https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/digestive/c_ct_jaundice
  • Fabian, M. V., Minovich, G., Alejandro, M. V. & Paludi, E. (2004) Libro de Medicina Felina Practica II Tapa dura. Royal Canin.
  • Matias, L, Paludi, E., Quiroga, M. (2018). Descripción de un caso clínico de ictericia hemolítica en un felino doméstico. (Tesina de grado, UNCPBA).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.