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Pancytopenia: Vets share advice with cat owners amid rise in deadly illness

Cat owners are concerned over a recent spike in case of a rare, potentially fatal, condition called pancytopenia in cats.

This week, Fold Hill have issued an urgent recall on a range of products sold at Pets At Home and Sainsbury’s.

The recall which affects cat foods products from Ava and Applaws was issued this week as a precautionary measure.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA), Food Standards Scotland and Defra are advising cat owners not to feed their cats specific cat food products. 

Since April 2021 there have been over 130 cases of feline pancytopenia, an illness that can often be fatal in cats, the FSA warned.

Pancytopenia is a very rare condition where the number of blood cells (red, white and platelets) rapidly decrease, causing serious illness. 

Since April 2021 there have been over 130 cases of feline pancytopenia. (Canva)

A government spokesperson said: “Working with the Royal Veterinary College, the Animal Plant and Health Agency and other government departments across all four nations of the UK, local authorities and the pet food supply chain, we are investigating a possible link between specific cat food products and feline pancytopenia. There is no definitive evidence to confirm a link at this stage. 

“No unsafe cat food has been identified but the manufacturer and brand owners affected, based on investigations so far, are taking the precautionary action of recalling and withdrawing cat food products that have been linked to affected cats.

“There is no evidence to suggest this outbreak of feline pancytopenia presents any risk to human health.”

Cat owners are being told to seek immediate advice from their vet if their cat is unwell or has been fed any of the cat food listed.

A spokesperson for Fold Hill said: “We are voluntarily recalling the dry products we manufacture for the brands detailed in the link below as a precautionary measure.

“We are supporting an investigation by the food and veterinary authorities into a possible safety issue affecting cats.”

They added: “If you have bought any of the above products as detailed above, do not feed them to your cat.

Vets are concerned

Vets are uncertain what may be causing this but a possible link to certain dry diets has been identified.

Video Vets Now are offering online video consultations to cat owners who suspect their cats may have been affected by pancytopenia.  

Owners can make an appointment here and experienced vets are available to discuss any worries or concerns you might have. 

Your Local Guardian: Vets have issued advice to worried cat owners. (PA)Vets have issued advice to worried cat owners. (PA)

Advice from vets

One of the country’s leading emergency vets, Dave Leicester, head of telehealth at Vets Now who looks after a team of experienced vets at Video Vets Now, said:

“Pancytopenia is the medical term used to describe the condition when all three cell types of blood (red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets) are low in number.  Pancytopenia isn’t a disease in itself, but rather it is a clinical sign that may have lots of different potential causes such as infection, toxins or cancer. All three cell lines are decreased either because of either increased destruction of the cells in circulation, or decreased production in the bone marrow.

“Common symptoms include lethargy and loss of appetite, although in some cases there can be signs of spontaneous bleeding or bruising, primarily due to low numbers, platelets which the body needs to form clots and repair tissue wear and tear.

“Although there is no specific treatment for pancytopenia itself, and the prognosis is, unfortunately, usually very poor, your vet will look to find the blood cell deficiencies and try to identify and treat the underlying cause.  Supportive treatment may include administering antibiotics and other medications such as drugs that stimulate bone marrow and most cases require blood transfusions to replace the lost cells.

“We are encouraging owners to seek urgent veterinary advice if they are worried that their cat may be affected. If you are worried, you can book an online video consultation with Video Vets Now, where you can speak to an experienced vet to discuss any concerns or worries you might have about your cat.”



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