UK investigating spike in feline pancytopenia linked to hypoallergenic cat food

LONDON – The Royal Veterinary College (RCV) is investigating an increase in cats with symptoms of pancytopenia, a blood cell deficiency disease that has since been linked to a hypoallergenic cat food manufacturer in the UK.

Fold Hills Foods Ltd., the maker of three brands involved in the investigation, recalled certain brands of its hypoallergenic cat food products on June 15-21. The recall was issued by the Food Standards Agency, the UK’s food safety regulator.

According to Fold Hills Foods, the Food Standards Agency, and the RVC, it is still unclear whether the increased rate of pancytopenia in cats is directly related to the hypoallergenic cat foods listed in the recall.

“We are alarmed and deeply saddened to learn of reports from food and veterinary authorities about some health problems in cats,” said Ben Mankertz, general manager at Fold Hills Foods. “As cat owners, we know exactly how stressful this situation is for families and while diet has not been confirmed as a cause, we would prefer to act now to ensure the cats’ absolute safety. As one of the UK’s leading pet food manufacturers, your pet’s safety is our top priority. We have therefore decided to recall the ranges of cat food that we produce for the identified brands. We believe that this is the safest course of action until an exact cause of the problem has been found. “

As of June 21, the RVC was aware of 278 cats in the UK affected by pancytopenia, at which point they reported a death rate of 70.2%. The institution reported that “only a small percentage of UK veterinarians are currently actively reporting to the RVC” which means the data are incomplete and the number of cases and deaths may be underestimated.

“We can confirm that we are aware of a number of fatal pancytopenia cases in cats in the UK,” said an RVC spokesman. “After seeing an increase in cats with pancytopenia (a severe decrease in all major types of blood cells) in May, we collected data from UK vets on these affected cats. Based on what we know so far, the only aspect of these cases that formed a consistent pattern was the diet of the individuals concerned. “

According to the RVC, approximately 80% of the reported cases were associated with a nutritional factor.

“While we have not definitively identified diet as the cause of pancytopenia in these cats, we are continuing to work with the pet food industry and regulatory agencies to investigate the matter and identify the possible underlying causes of this extremely serious condition,” the RVC- Spokesman said.

Pancytopenia causes fever, pale gums, bloody excrement and nosebleeds, according to the Association of Pet Food Manufacturers (PFMA).

“Pet health and well-being is a top priority and we fully support this recall,” said Michael Bellingham, CEO of PFMA. “We understand the concern this will cause cat owners and we want to assure them that a thorough investigation will be conducted from start to finish to determine the cause.”

Read about the recent pet food and treats recalls.