Why Your Samoyed May Have Jaundice

Samoyed with tongue out in field of lavender

There are many reasons your Samoyed can develop jaundice. Jaundice is mostly a symptom rather than a disease itself that can show underlying issues with your dog’s health, typically something relating to liver damage or liver failure. Jaundice is to be taken seriously and is not to be ignored.

Jaundice is when the eyes and other mucous membranes turn yellow because of a high bilirubin level. Bilirubin is a yellow compound produced in the liver that occurs when the body breaks down hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carry oxygen. We also find bilirubin in bile and urine, causing both to appear as yellowish hues. If the liver isn’t working correctly, it will not filter out the bilirubin well enough. Therefore, it is being spread throughout the body in high concentrations, causing some parts to turn yellow, including your Samoyed’s gums, eyes, and thin skin like in the ears and between the toes.

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Causes of Jaundice in Samoyeds

Samoyed Hereditary Glomerulopathy

There are many reasons jaundice can occur in your Samoyed, but the leading cause is a Samoyed predisposition called Samoyed Hereditary Glomerulopathy or SHG. SHG is a disease that causes kidney malfunction and a portosystemic shunt (a bypass of the liver by the body’s circulatory system), wherein the kidneys cannot filter toxins from the blood. This causes red blood cells and protein to leak into urine or back into the bloodstream since the materials aren’t getting filtered by the liver properly. Because of these health effects, it will cause your Samoyed to develop jaundice.

SHG is an inherited disease passed down by the mother. It progresses faster in males. If your Samoyed is found to have SHG, it is crucial that you not allow it to reproduce, or the condition will get passed down onto the offspring. Therefore, it is helpful to have your Samoyed and your Samoyeds parents tested for SHG before adoption through a reliable genetic testing service.

Liver Cancer

Another reason a Samoyed may develop jaundice is the presence of liver cancer. Liver cancer is more commonly found in older dogs but can also be found in dogs of all ages. Typically, the first stages of liver cancer in canines won’t show any symptoms, so by the time it presents itself as jaundice; it means it has already advanced enough to affect liver function. A dog can have a few different types of liver cancer: massive, diffuse, or nodular. Massive does not refer to the size of cancer; in fact, it just means that there is a cancerous mass present somewhere in your Samoyed.

In comparison, some types of cancer have a poor prognosis with a life expectancy of 3-6 months. Surgery can work on and can eradicate other types, but different types cannot be cured, only slowed down dramatically by chemotherapy. In that case, it is up to you and your vet to decide what path to take and how to keep your dog the most comfortable.

Hepatic Encephalopathy

Similar to humans with severe liver disease, Samoyeds can also have hepatic encephalopathy. This is the effect of toxins building up in the blood due to the liver not working correctly and filtering the toxins out of the blood. Eventually, the toxins in the blood will make their way into the dog’s brain, causing them to act confused and disoriented. Hepatic encephalopathy will also cause clinical signs like jaundice. However, many of the symptoms are reversible when treated promptly via ammonia-controlling medications and antibiotics.


There is also the risk of gallstones in your Samoyed, which can cause liver disease and result in jaundice as well. Gallstones are hardened deposits of bile that form in your Samoyed’s gallbladder. They are likely to appear if you have been feeding your Samoyed a high sodium diet like cheaper dog food brands or if the gallbladder isn’t being emptied enough. Preventative measures include providing your Samoyed a balanced diet, supplements and making sure he’s hydrated.

Gallstones can also lead to Gallbladder Mucocele. This means the gallbladder becomes overly extended with mucus and can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying disease. This affliction is typically easily reversible with proper vet treatments and diet changes. Some clinical signs of Gallbladder Mucocele in your Samoyed are excessive urinating, whining and crying, and abdominal discomfort and resistance when being fed. We can cure this condition via an operation called a cholecystectomy, in which they remove the gallbladder. The gallbladder isn’t necessary to live a long and fulfilling life. A reliable veterinarian can perform the procedure.

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Environmental Factors That Contribute to the Development of Jaundice in your Samoyed

Consuming Toxic Materials

Sometimes there are environmental causes of jaundice. However, one of the leading causes of jaundice in Samoyeds other than SHG directly relates to the destruction of red blood cells, referred to as hemolysis. Many factors can cause hemolysis, such as If your Samoyed were to eat a toxic plant, the wrong medication, or contract parasites such as heartworm, autoimmune diseases, liver disease, cancer, among others. The consumption of those things will cause the attack and the destruction of red blood cells, which will cause an overreaction from the liver and a higher bilirubin level leading to jaundice. Destruction of red blood cells due to toxins is called Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia.

Bacterial Infection

Bacterial infection is another environmental factor that can cause your Samoyed to develop jaundice. Similar to a bacterial infection in a human being, it can affect many places inside your dog’s body once it enters the bloodstream, including the liver. Dogs typically get bacterial infections from drinking contaminated water or come into contact with dogs who have a bacterial infection. Undercooked meat can be a cause of a bacterial infection as well. A higher risk of contracting a bacterial infection is present if your dog spends a lot of time around other dogs, such as in a kennel or dog parks.


Canine Hepatitis is another reason your dog may end up suffering from jaundice. Canine Hepatitis is not transmittable to humans, nor the other way around. Your Samoyed can only catch canine hepatitis from other dogs, transmutable through bodily fluids like saliva, urine, vomit, and feces. You can prevent this with the canine’s distemper vaccine and subsequent boosters. If the dog does contract hepatitis, it will take about 4 to 9 days for the symptoms to set in. The first sign is a low-grade fever and jaundice, resulting in apathy, vomiting, diarrhea, inflammation, and pain. Some dogs will recover all on their own from hepatitis, and some dogs will need a blood transfusion or other treatments or potentially pass away from the complications.

How Jaundice Can Affect Your Samoyeds Life

Jaundice in of itself will only affect your Samoyed in the sense that its eyes, skin, and other mucous membranes will turn yellow. However, the primary way your dog’s life will be affected is by whatever underlying condition is causing it to have jaundice. For example, severe anemia, which can cause jaundice, will show itself in your Samoyed’s behavior via a weakness in body and energy, little to no interest in food and a potential fever.

Outside of anemia, the other primary reason your dog would come down with jaundice is SHG. SHG is sadly incurable. There are ways to slow the projection of SHG within your Samoyed, however. Proper medication and diet changes may make SHG more bearable for your dog and slow the effects, but unfortunately, it will not cure it altogether. Symptoms of this disease can show themselves as early as 3-6 months and cause your puppy to be severely anemic, have organ failure, and be highly sedentary. Those consequences are why testing your Samoyed for SHG before allowing reproduction or adopting is imperative to the lives of other Samoyeds.

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How Severe Jaundice Can Get

Jaundice can get severe in that it can cause lethargy and weight loss. Outside of those two things, jaundice isn’t too extreme. The underlying cause of jaundice is what can get very serious. Most diseases that cause jaundice can end up deadly if left untreated.

The Life Expectancy of a Samoyed With Jaundice

The life expectancy of a Samoyed with jaundice can be limited but ultimately varies on the cause of jaundice. For example, SHG acts swiftly and can, unfortunately, end a dog’s life within 8 to 15 months. Anemia or liver failure, however, can be treated and may result in a longer life expectancy.

Signs That Your Samoyed Might Have Jaundice

The best way for a samoyed owner to tell if their dog has jaundice is to bring it to a veterinarian, where they will perform in-depth tests. There may be visual symptoms that make it somewhat apparent that your Samoyed is suffering from jaundice. Still, the only way to confirm is through a blood test conducted by a trained professional to observe the function of the liver and determine if there are clinical signs of liver failure.

Complete Blood Count

Your vet will most likely perform what’s called a CBC (Complete Blood Count) to assess if your Samoyed has a regular amount of red and white blood cells and if your dog is anemic. These tests will sort out if your dog has liver disease and a liver biopsy is typically required or recommended to find the underlying cause of the liver disease.

Liver Biopsy

Some precautions may need to be taken before a CBC or liver biopsy is possible with your dog. For example, poor surgical candidates will be in line for an ultrasound. Laparoscopy is another minimal technique for a liver biopsy in which a small incision is made and microscopic tools are inserted. Because this procedure is so minimal, there is very little to no risk, so it is an excellent candidate for older or immunocompromised canines. The gold standard in liver biopsy technology is Laparotomy because you can see the largest surface area in the liver. However, it’s also considered the most invasive. Typically, because it is such an invasive operation, it isn’t usually done for the sole purpose of a biopsy.

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Signs to Look Out For in Your Samoyed

There are many ways to tell if your dog is suffering from jaundice, but the main symptom is the classic yellowing of the eyes and skin, just like would be seen in a human. Outside of that, lack of energy, little to no interest in food, weight loss, yelping or crying, and any other strange behaviors.

There are a lot of observable behaviors that will key you in on the fact your Samoyed probably needs to go to the vet that applies to jaundice. One of the most important and telling factors is diarrhea. In addition, pretty much any change in your pup’s fecal matter can show that he isn’t doing well, especially if there’s blood or mucus in the stool. One other significant symptom that can often get overlooked when an ill dog is frequent drinking and urination. Those two things can be a symptom of dehydration, which is usually a result of jaundice.

How Jaundice Will Project Overtime

If the reason for jaundice isn’t too severe, it will typically go away on its own. If it is an isolated incident, the liver and kidney functions will usually get themselves back on track on their own. Still, it is essential to get your Samoyed checked out at all signs of jaundice because they have such a high probability of inheriting SHG.

Jaundice can appear in the timeframe anywhere from 2 to 3 days to take up to two weeks. Typically, you will see the yellowing of your dog’s skin and eyes first; then, over time, you’ll see your Samoyed suffer from fever, chill, bloody urine, and black, clay-like stool. Jaundice can last anywhere from four to six months without getting treated. If we leave the issue longer, your dog may enter critical condition, or it may result in death.

How to care for and treat your Samoyed for Jaundice

There are certain ways to reverse jaundice with a specific diet. Your veterinarian will recommend a low protein and high-fiber diet. Fiber helps eliminate ammonia from your dog’s system, so the liver won’t have to work as hard. Depending on the underlying cause of jaundice, a vitamin-rich diet may be able to relieve the disease altogether. If there is a more severe reason, such as a liver infection or liver failure, antibiotics or a blood transfusion may be necessary.

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Preventative Measures


You can take some preventative measures to ensure your Samoyed doesn’t get jaundice or related conditions. First, make sure he has a balanced and vitamin-rich diet. This is important because sometimes jaundice can be developed from a lack of vitamin C and other essential vitamins.

Adopting From a Trustworthy Source

Another important way to avoid disease in your Samoyed is to adopt from a reputable source that has tested for SHG. This disease will cause your new puppy not to live the rich and fulfilling life you want for your Samoyed, and it can easily be avoided with proper care and testing.

Avoid Toxic Substances

Finally, it is imperative to keep your Samoyed away from toxic substances and test for cancer-based on your veterinarian’s recommendation. Poisonous substances that cause liver failure and jaundice are more common than you’d think; for example, many household plants are toxic to dogs. Some common plants that can poison dogs or cause jaundice are tulips, lily of the valley, peonies, mums, and azaleas. After eating a poison plant, there are a few things to look for in your dog. Increased heart rate, erratic breathing, vomiting, and seizures are all potential signs that your Samoyed may have ingested something toxic and should be brought to the vet immediately. In addition, eating poison can cause liver damage and jaundice.

Another typical example of a poisonous substance is many pesticides used to kill insects and weeds in parks. Prolonged and repeated exposure to these chemicals can cause cancer and many long-term side effects, including liver problems and jaundice.

Steps to Take

Steps you must take as a dog owner who has a Samoyed with jaundice is to remain calm, for you are your dog’s sense of safety in this situation. There are many reasons your dog may have jaundice, so the next step would be to bring him to the vet as soon as possible so vets can do the proper tests.

Some things you can try to keep your dog comfortable before getting him to the vet are feeding him more frequently, which can help him have more bowel movements and dispel more of the bilirubin in his system. Another significant thing is to keep him very hydrated. Jaundice can come from dehydration or cause dehydration.

How to Help Your Samoyed Live a Fulfilling Life

The most important thing to ensure your Samoyed lives a fulfilling life is to provide you adopt him from someplace that can guarantee he doesn’t have SHG. Unfortunately, it is a widespread disease among Samoyeds, affecting nearly 30 percent of the breed. Taking precautionary measures will also ensure a long and fulfilling life.

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