Pancytopenia & pet food

The recent recall involving a number of cat foods made in the UK (AVA, Sainsbury’s, Winko and Applaws) have been linked to an outbreak of feline pancytopenia. Already, a number of cats have died from this condition relating to this pet food and as the investigation is ongoing, many have been left distressed as they wait for answers.

I’ve been asked by a number of pet owners if I could shed some light on what is happening and what pet owners can do in the meantime, to transition their pets onto a different diet, so I’ve gathered as much information as possible into this blog post to give a little background on the condition and what we know so far. If any new information comes to light, I’ll update this post.

Please note: This post is not a substitute for veterinary medical advice and is purely for informational purposes only. I am not a veterinarian therefore if you suspect your pet is unwell or may be affected by the recall, please seek your veterinarian’s opinion at your earliest opportunity.

What is pancytopenia?

Pancytopenia is a term used to describe a dangerously low level of platelets, red and white blood cells. It is important to note that pancytopenia is a symptom, not a disease in and of itself, which usually means it is a result of another disease process. If your pet has pancytopenia, they can rapidly develop anaemia, clotting issues and serious infections as these blood products are vital to these functions.

What causes pancytopenia?

– Blood cells cannot be produced: if something damages the pet’s bone marrow such as a toxin or cancer, it will no longer we able to perform it’s vital function of creating blood cells.
– Blood cells are being destroyed: a blood infection, toxin, or an auto-immune disease can cause destruction of blood cells. If this happens too quickly for the body to replenish them, pancytopenia results.
– Medical conditions: such as FeLV, FIV, sepsis, toxins, bone cancer or immune disorders can cause pancytopenia.

How do I know my pet has pancytopenia?

The symptoms that the Royal Veterinary College is advising pet owners to watch for are:
• Low energy/weakness
• Not eating
• Pale gums
• Bleeding from the gums, nose, eyes, mouth, anus or vagina
• Blood in the faeces or urine
• Blood in vomit
• Unexplained bruising
• Repeated or severe infections
• Fever
• Collapse

If your pet shows any of these symptoms please take them to your vet immediately.

Pancytopenia is diagnosed by a blood test, but your vet may request other tests (urine samples, scans etc) to try and determine why your pet has developed it. Currently the Royal Veterinary College is working on these cases and collecting information to try and determine what in these diets has lead to this condition and what can be done to treat these pets. This condition is very serious, and even with the most intensive care some pets may still pass away.

What about these diets caused it?

At the moment, we still do not know. However, if we look at the list of causes for pancytopenia, we can speculate at best; toxins or an autoimmune response to an ingredient may play a role in this recall. The only way to determine this will be to test the diets for contamination for toxic substances, aswell as a nutritional analysis in case the diets are lacking in something that has lead to an autoimmune condition. The other line of enquiry would be potential bacterial contamination, which may have lead to a severe blood infection. It’s hard to know where to begin with these diets, as these brands do not perform feeding trials or quality control tests on their diets to ensure they are safe for pets to eat.

Should I change diets if my pet is fine?

Yes. Switching to a different diet all together is currently recommended for pets that have been fed the affected foods as we still do not know what has caused the issue.

What should I feed instead?

Switch to a diet that follows strict quality control standards and protocols and follows the WSAVA guidelines. Check out my posts on selecting pet foods. If you are still unsure, ask your vet for a recommendation or book a nutritional consultation for personalised advice.

Where can I go for more information?

The Royal Veterinary College is conducting a survey and investigation into the outbreak and will be the best source of up to date information here.

The Facebook group Pancytopenia in Cats Awareness UK is a great resource and support group for pet parents of affected cats.

If your pet was eating one of the affected foods, please also contact the manufacturer for more information and report the case to your vet so they can notify the appropriate authorities.

If you found this post helpful and informative, please consider making a small donation via buymeacoffee. The proceeds help me continue to provide educational materials for Veterinary professionals and pet owners.


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