Cats across the UK are still dying from a rare disease that may have been linked to some popular pet food brands.
Since the first known case in February, at least 528 cats have been diagnosed with pancytopenia in cats, a condition in which the number of blood cells (red, white, and platelets) decreases rapidly. Of the cats diagnosed with the disease, 63.5 percent have died.
The disease can be caused by anemia, bleeding, blood clotting, sepsis, blood cancer, bone cancer and disorders of the immune system, among other things. However, the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has opened an investigation into the sudden increase in cases.
A statement from the RVC states: “Unfortunately, we are currently aware of over 500 affected cats. Investigations into an underlying cause show no association with common infectious diseases in cats, common toxins (e.g. heavy metals, estrogen), or a deficiency / excess of vitamins or minerals.
The college has since started analyzing cat food products that may be linked and have been recalled by the Food Standards Agency. It is still testing food samples given to both affected and unaffected cats.
In June, as a precautionary measure, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) recalled a number of popular pet food brands after veterinarians discovered that a common possible cause of cats diagnosed with the disease is diet.
The recalled products are dry food from Fold Hill Foods, which makes pet food for various retailers. Customers who have purchased Sainsbury’s own branded AVA and Applaws groceries are asked to return them to the stores.
Fold Hill Foods said, “Following reports from food and veterinary authorities of serious health problems in cats that may or may not be diet-related, Fold Hill Foods Ltd has a recall of the above cat food products that it is a precautionary measure.”
Steven Barrett, a High Wycombe attorney, told The Independent that his nine-year-old cat Freyja died on August 3 after falling ill late last week.
Freyja recently ate a bag of Applaw’s dry food just before she started vomiting. Barrett said he didn’t find out about the recall until Monday night after going online to buy more of the product she’d eaten all her life.
“She had eaten applaws all her life because when I got them, I was doing research on cat nutrition. The only food I knew cats shouldn’t eat is carbohydrates, and Applaws is advertised as 100 percent grain free, ”he said.
He said Freyja was an indoor cat and had never been outside. When she was taken to the vet, she was diagnosed with organ failure, but no tests for pancytopenia in cats were done.
“Her death was very difficult to come to terms with. I found myself leaving the bedroom door just wide open for it to get through, and now there is no need to.
“I just want cats to be safe. We know cat owners buy dry food in bulk, I have, especially from Covid-19. I want to raise awareness and help as many cat owners as possible, ”he said.
In its latest update, the Food Standards Agency announced that a number of samples of the recalled cat food had detected the presence of mycotoxins, a naturally occurring toxin produced by certain molds.
Mycotoxins are common in some feeds and do not suggest they cause pancytopenia in cats, according to the FSA.
Molds, which produce mycotoxins, can grow on foods such as grains, nuts, spices, dried fruits and coffee, usually in warm, humid conditions.
However, the FSA reiterated its previous advice and urged cat owners to review the list of affected products and stop feeding them to their pets.
A spokesman for Fold Hill Foods told The Independent that supporting the FSA’s investigation was “an absolute priority”.
“As indicated by the FSA, there is no definitive evidence at this stage to confirm an association between the cat food products and cat pancytopenia.
“We are continuing to work fully with the FSA and the Royal Veterinary College as they continue to investigate all potential causes of pancytopenia cases, both with and without feed.
“As cat owners ourselves, we fully understand how worrying and stressful this situation is and how urgent it is to find out why pancytopenia cases have increased in the UK,” the spokesman said.