What is the problem?
There has been a spate of cases of Pancytopenia in cats, usually a very rare condition.
The Royal Veterinary College and other referral facilities are working hard to find a cause but currently we do not know what the trigger is. There appears to be dietary similarities between a number of the reported cases which has led the recall of certain foods from Applaws, AVA and Sainsburys as a precaution whilst investigations are ongoing.
A full list of affected diets is available on the FSA’s website food.gov.uk/news-alerts/alert/fsa-prin-36-2021.
What is Pancytopenia?
Pancytopenia is the term for when there is a reduction of all of the cells of the blood (white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets). Clinical signs occur due to anaemia, infection secondary to a low white blood cell count or abnormal bleeding. Signs can range from general lethargy and being off food to pale gums, bruising or bleeding. Typically it is caused by something affecting the bone marrow such as infections (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and Feline Leukaemia Virus) cancers or toxins. In the recent cases a specific cause has not been found with usual testing, unfortunately this means that currently there is not a specific treatment to stop the condition, just supportive care.
I have been feeding my cat one of the recalled diets, what should I do?
We would advise to stop feeding the diet immediately. Please refer to the specific manufacturer recall advice or contact them directly. It may be prudent to keep packaging for batch information.
If your cat is unwell in any way we would advise you arrange an urgent appointment where they can be examined and the vet will likely advise a blood test to check red and white cell levels.
If your cat is currently well with no symptoms you may wish to consider a blood sample to make sure there are no abnormalities present although whether this is of clinical benefit in an asymptomatic patient is currently unknown. As the specific cause has not been identified there is no way to tell if a normal blood sample at this time would mean that the patient would definitely not become sick in the future especially as some of these cases appear to progress rapidly. It is also unknown as to whether any specific supportive treatments may change outcome if abnormalities were identified in an asymptomatic patient.
Should you be concerned and wish for an examination and blood test to be performed we are happy to arrange this, however, please be mindful that we need to prioritise the needs of currently unwell animals in terms of appointment allocation. For this reason, it may not be possible to offer a same or next day appointment. We know that this may be a concerning time for many cat owners so thank you for your understanding on this point.
I have not been feeding one of the recalled diets but I am still concerned, what should I do?
If your cat is showing any symptoms previously listed but you have been feeding a different diet we would still advise an appointment. A causal link between a specific diet and the condition is not currently proven so any patient who is unwell should be seen.
A number of referral centres are working together and collecting data from first opinion vets across the country to try and work out the cause of this condition. We will continue to keep our clients as updated as we can when more information becomes available.