Vet treating a cat in our animal hospital

Pancytopenia in cats

There is currently a recall in place on certain cat food brands that may have a link to pancytopenia. Be sure to read up on the safety concerns and see if this affects you

Stop feeding your cat any affected cat food products straight away. The link above will show you a list of brands and tell you what to do.

What is pancytopenia?

This is a term used by vets. It means that your pet has a very low red and white blood cell count. These cells are vital to keep your cat healthy and functioning and a low level can lead to anaemia and serious infections.

This can be fatal to cats, so it’s important to get your pet to the vet asap if you think they have any symptoms of pancytopenia.

Symptoms

Some cats don't show any symptoms so, if you have a multicat household, and one of them is showing signs of pancytopenia, you'll need to get your other cats checked too.

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

If you see any of the above signs, speak with your vet immediately. 

What causes pancytopenia?

Bone marrow produces your cat's white and red blood cells. If something damages your pet's bone marrow, it can stop it working properly. This means the correct level of blood cells are not being pumped around your cat's body, causing pancytopenia. 

Causes vary but can include:

  • toxins
  • certain infectious diseases such as feline AIDS (FIV) and feline leukaemia (FeLV)
  • sepsis: when their immune system overreacts to an infection and it starts to attack their own tissues and organs
  • blood cancer 
  • bone cancer
  • immune system disorders

How is pancytopenia diagnosed?

Your vet will run a blood test which will look at your cat's blood cell count. From here, they can identify whether they are low.

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

  • a urine (wee) sample
  • body scans
  • bone marrow biopsy

How will my vet treat pancytopenia?

There is no specific treatment for pancytopenia. But your vet will provide supportive care which will usually include them going into intensive care.

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: this is a blood growth factor that tries to make the bone marrow produce more white blood cells

Sadly, many of the causes of pancytopenia are life-threatening and the treatment listed above, may not always work. 

In some cases your cat may not make it through or you may be faced with the difficult decision of putting your cat to sleep. 

What if I lose my cat or they have to be put to sleep?

We know how difficult and upsetting losing your cat can be and we're here to help you through. 

If you need to speak with someone, our free and confidential pet bereavement support line is open 8:30am to 8:30pm daily.

Speak to someone now

— Page last updated 22/06/2021

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