Pancytopenia in cats

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23 June 2021
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There has been an outbreak of a rare, deadly disease called pancytopenia in UK cats and certain pet foods have been recalled while experts investigate to find the cause and save more cats lives.

What is pancytopenia?

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

 

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What are the symptoms of pancytopenia?

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • White gums
  • Blood in the urine or faeces
  • High temperature

 

What has happened with the pancytopenia outbreak?

Pancytopenia is a very rare disease but the number of cases has rocketed in recent weeks, and has been fatal for many cats. The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) reporting on Monday 21 June: “The RVC is aware of 278 cats that are known to us based on cases treated at our own hospitals and information provided by some vets in the UK. Of these there was 70.2% mortality at time of reporting.”

This is believed to only be a percentage of cases with not all cases being reported to the RVC. The RVC is appealing to vets to take part in a new survey to investigate the spike in cases. For the latest updates from the RVC and the vets’ survey, visit: https://www.rvc.ac.uk/news-and-events/rvc-news/feline-pancytopenia-update

Dr Barbara Glanemann who is one of the experts who is leading the investigation said: “Given the rarity of this condition, the clustering of these cases is concerning. The cats are severely unwell, have spontaneous bleeding and require often multiple transfusion for stabilisation prior to any investigation being possible.”

 

Foods recalled

During their investigations, the RVC reported on 16th June: “We have been gathering data from UK vets from these affected cats. Based on the evidence to date, the one aspect of these cases that formed a consistent pattern was the diet of the affected individuals.

While the cases of pancytopenia have not been confirmed to be caused by diet, certain foods have been recalled as a precaution. What foods have been recalled?

Applaws dry cat food
Sainsburys Hypoallergenic dry cat food
AVA dry cat food

For the full list of products that have been recalled, visit: https://www.food.gov.uk/news-alerts/alert/fsa-prin-36-2021-update-1

 

 

My cat is being fed one of the cat foods on the list, what do I do?

The advice is to immediately stop feeding it and to seek veterinary advice.

 

Pancytopenia advice and support

For the RVC updates on the pancytopenia outbreak: https://www.rvc.ac.uk/news-and-events/rvc-news/feline-pancytopenia-update

For pet owners concerned about pet food and the link to pancytopenia, visit the Pet Food Manufacturers Association for advice: https://www.pfma.org.uk/news/information-for-pet-owners-concerned-about-pancytopenia

For the full list of recalled products: https://www.food.gov.uk/news-alerts/alert/fsa-prin-36-2021-update-1

With news and awareness of pancytopenia growing, a Facebook group called ‘Pancytopenia in Cats Awareness UK’ was set up on 12 June to help spread awareness of the condition and to get the message out there about the foods that have been recalled. The community are sharing lots of the latest information about the situation.

 

The impact of pancytopenia

While investigations continue to find conclusively the cause of the pancytopenia outbreak, being vigilant and sharing helpful resources will continue to help saves feline lives. There will be owners who do not use social media and even the internet, so getting information to those would really help.

It was truly heart-breaking to see how many cats and kittens had succumbed to this condition even before the recall of the foods were announced. If you are struggling with the loss of a cat — from pancytopenia or any other reason — The Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service offers a fantastic support service where you can speak to a trained adviser by email or phone. Visit https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-bereavement-and-pet-loss

 

Note: thank you to Sonja Steiner for this article and research, and her efforts to help cats.