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2 Obvious Signs of Liver Failure in a Cat

September 4, 2013

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Signs Your Cat Could Have Liver Failure

If your friends mention your cat looks yellow, take your kitty to the vet!

Yellow Third Eyelid


Abigail looked sick. She sat hunched over on the stainless steel examination table. She would have blinked at the bright fluorescent light and sniffed the strange disinfectant on the edge of the table, but the 7-year-old short-haired tabby cat just did not care.

“Abby hasn’t wanted to touch anything but the juice on her food for a week,” said Abigail’s worried dad. “She’s never been sick a day in her life. I don’t understand how she could get sick so fast.”  Veterinarians hear this every day, by the way.

Doc Truli asked,” Does Abigail vomit?”

“Yes, but she does that anyway about once a week.” That’s not normal.

“Do you see the yellow on her eyelid?” asked Doc Truli.

Abigail’s dad winced and said,”I really don’t like looking at eyeballs.” Lots of people feel the same way.

“Well I can see the normal white color of her eyelid has turned yellow,” said Doc Truli.

“Why is that?” said dad.

The first place to see jaundice in a cat is the back of the oral cavity. Tell your sighted friends to go ahead and look in there! (I'm sure your cat won't bite them!)

Yellow roof of a cat’s mouth

“Yellow in the membranes and tissues of the body is called jaundice (pronounced jawn-diss). There’s too much bilirubin (pronounced billy-roo-bin) pigment in the blood. Bilirubin is a waste product of metabolism. Either too much blood is being destroyed by the body and processed through the liver, the liver is not doing its job, or the bilirubin cannot get out of the liver because of a blocked or static bile flow (for instance, gall bladder disease). We need to run some tests to find out the cause of the jaundice.”

Tru Tip

The very first place you can see jaundice in a cat is the back arches of the oral cavity (back of the mouth).


Cose up picture of the red splotches.  I know, another useless picture for the vision impaired.

Splotchy Red Ecchymosis

Ecchymosis (pronounced eck-ee-mo-sis) are red, flat spotches of blood just under the surface of the skin. Like a bruise, but not pooled blood, and like an abrasion, but not actually bleeding out of the skin. Imagine the tiny capillaries that carry one blood cell after another (not enough room for side-by-side) just leaking the red blood cells under the skin. You end up seeing the accumulation of these tiny bleeds.

If the blood pools in tiny one to five millimeter areas, this is petechia (pronounced peh-tee-key-ah). Bigger areas are ecchymosis.

These red areas are caused by the lack of clotting ability of the blood. In the case of liver failure, since the liver makes many of the clotting factors, if the liver is not working right, then the blood will not clot properly. (There are many other causes of ecchymosis- so see a local veterinarian you trust if you see this pattern on your pet’s skin.)

Smooth, flat, Red splotches on your cat's skin are not normal

Red splotches from liver failure

As soon as we shaved Abigail’s inner thigh in order to see her vein more clearly to obtain a blood sample, we saw the ecchymosis. Other areas we could easily see the ecchymosis were her belly and chest area where her fur was naturally thinner and white.  In fact, Abby’s whole body was covered with ecchymosis under her fur. She was one sick kitty, indeed.

Tests revealed the source of Abigail’s jaundice and ecchymosis was liver failure. We identified a blood parasite as the cause *. After a week of intensive care and appropriate antibiotics, Abigail made a full recovery. She was one lucky kitty, indeed!

**There are many possible blood parasites and they vary from country to country, so it is irrelevant to publish here, seek local veterinary help regarding your cat’s situation.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Lyndsi Owens permalink
    June 13, 2017 7:48 pm

    My baby skitzo, 8 year old female fat cat of ours just passed away this morning. We do not know why, she had just went to the vet and she was healthy and this morning she passed away. She had a red spot on her stomach, it was red dark and bald spot. I have no idea, maybe she got a parasite? Can anyone help me figure out what happened to my baby?

    • June 21, 2017 11:58 am

      Dear Lyndsi,
      I’m so sorry to hear about your cat passing away. I suggest you place your memorial efforts elsewhere – you are not going to know what she passed from from such a general symptom. There are way to many possibilities to reason it out without more hard data (like an autopsy.)
      Doc Truli

  2. Nicole permalink
    November 10, 2013 8:55 pm

    Dear Virtua Vet:

    The love of my life, Spooky, my 13 year old male cat has a mass inside him that the vet believes is terminal cancer. His lifetime vet is quite elderly and is always taking vacations and does not seem to be fully “with it” even when he is available. I tried taking him to a new vet, but that vet seems to be distracted and does not return phone calls to answer important questions. He also gave me contradictory information. Spooky hates going to the vet and I cannot see continuing to drag him to different vets and putting him through that stress. I saw on another thread that you may be available to hire for a consultation to supplement what I’ve already learned from the vets. I could really use some additional advice and guidance through this. I feel I have enough information that you may be able to help me. I really love your site and some of the information you have shows that you are more in touch with things than most others. How can I obtain info about hiring you for consult? Thank you so much for you time and everything that you are doing online.

  3. Bart Springer permalink
    September 15, 2013 1:11 am

    What a great outcome for Abigail and her parents.

  4. September 5, 2013 12:31 am

    Very useful information. Always good to be in the know. Thanks. 🙂

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