Is Jaundice in Dogs Contagious?

Icterus, also known as jaundice, is not a disease itself, but is a symptom caused by an increased amount of bilirubin and a liver problem. Jaundice manifests through the yellowing of tissues. It is not contagious to humans, but may be contagious to other canines in rare cases.

Causes of Jaundice

Jaundice is not always contagious to other dogs. This will be determined by the cause of the condition. Jaundice in dogs can be caused by various factors such as:

  • Drug administration (i.e., corticosteroids, Phenobarbital or chemotherapy)
  • Liver damage
  • Toxicity (due to ingestion of poisonous materials)
  • Immune system diseases
  • Tumors
  • Heartworm
  • Pancreatitis
  • Bile duct problems
  • Anemia

When Jaundice Is Contagious to Other Dogs

The jaundice signals an internal problem, which is most likely in the liver. Aside from the heartworms, the other conditions that cause jaundice are not contagious. The heartworm may be transmitted to other canines, but only through mosquito bites. A mosquito can transmit heartworms from one canine to another if it bites an infested dog. It is important to determine the cause of jaundice and isolate the dog if he is affected by heartworms.

Jaundice Is Not Contagious to Humans

This condition will not be contagious to humans. Heartworms cannot be transmitted to humans. Even though the jaundice is not contagious to humans, it is still important to be able to recognize it, diagnose the problem and administer treatment.

Symptoms of Jaundice

The symptoms of jaundice may vary greatly depending on what the cause is. However, the dog will have yellow tissues and this will be more visible in the eye whites and the gums or other mucous membranes. The dog may also display symptoms such as:

  • Lethargy
  • Breathing problems
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite and weight loss
  • Polydypsia and polyuria
  • Dehydration

Diagnosing Jaundice

The vet will have to run some tests to detect the possible causes of jaundice. It is important to detect whether the dog has heartworms, which are contagious. This condition may not be detected during the incubation period of the heartworms, when the tests will not show the presence of the worms (this period may be up to 9 months). However, the vet may find other reasons for the jaundice and determine whether the condition causing it is contagious.

Treatment Options

The treatment for jaundice may depend on the underlying cause. If the cause is difficult to detect, the vet will target the symptoms and administer treatment to reduce the symptoms first.

Intravenous fluids and electrolyte therapy may be needed if the dog is severely dehydrated. The vet will establish the best course of treatment after getting a clear diagnosis.

If the dog has heartworms, which will cause a series of complications and may not be treated, the vet will recommend isolating the pet in an area with no mosquitoes, to prevent the infestation of other pets.