Symptoms of Pancytopenia illness in cats explained - and is it linked to cat food?

Pancytopenia is a rare bone marrow condition which can cause serious illness in felines (Photo: Shutterstock)
Pancytopenia is a rare bone marrow condition which can cause serious illness in felines (Photo: Shutterstock)

Pancytopenia is a rare bone marrow condition which can cause serious illness in felines.

Certain cat food products were recently recalled after concern of a link between them and pancytopenia.

The Food Standards Agency has recalled a number of pet food products manufactured by Fold Hill Foods, including the Sainsbury’s Hypoallergenic Recipe range, Pets at Home’s AVA range and Applaws Cat Dry products.

But what is pancytopenia and what are the signs your cat has the condition?

Here’s what you need to know.

What is pancytopenia?

Pancytopenia means that your pet has a very low red and white blood cell count.

According to the Blue Cross, these cells are vital to keep your cat healthy and functioning, and a low level can lead to anaemia and serious infections.

It’s important to get your pet to the vet as soon as possible if you think they have any symptoms of pancytopenia, as the condition can be fatal in some cases.

What causes pancytopenia?

Bone marrow produces your cat's white and red blood cells, but if something damages your pet's bone marrow then it can stop it working properly.

This means that the correct level of blood cells are not being pumped around your cat's body, which then causes pancytopenia.

Causes vary but they can include:

  • toxins
  • certain infectious diseases such as feline AIDS (FIV) and feline leukaemia (FeLV)
  • sepsis
  • blood cancer
  • bone cancer
  • immune system disorders

What are the symptoms of pancytopenia?

Some cats don't show any symptoms of the condition, so if you have more than one can and one is showing signs of pancytopenia, you will also need to get your other cats checked.

Some cats may show mild symptoms which can include:

  • tiredness
  • restlessness
  • lack of appetite
  • pale gums

You may also see more serious signs such as:

  • bleeding from their mouth
  • black poo or blood in their poo
  • blood in their wee
  • sick containing blood
  • collapsing

When should I contact a vet?

If you see any of the above signs and symptoms of the condition you should speak with your vet immediately.

Your vet will run a blood test which will look at your cat's blood cell count.

If their levels are low, then your vet may also carry out other tests to look for other causes.

These other tests can include:

  • a urine sample
  • body scans
  • bone marrow biopsy

How is pancytopenia treated?

There is no one specific treatment for pancytopenia and the Blue Cross notes that what caused your cat's pancytopenia will often be an indication of the care they receive.

Care options can include:

  • blood transfusions to boost their blood cell count
  • antibiotics
  • granulocyte colony stimulating factor - a blood growth factor that tries to make the bone marrow produce more white blood cells