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Severe feline pancytopenia in cats fed certain types of dry cat foods

We have recently received very distressing news that a potential link has been discovered between feeding certain types of grain-free dry cat foods and a disease called severe feline pancytopenia. The brands affected are Applaws dry foods, AVA dry foods and a few varieties of hypoallergenic Sainsbury’s dry cat foods. These are not bad foods, and in fact some are foods that we list on our feeding recommendations, but there is clearly something very wrong with these batches. The company that manufactures all of these foods (many pet foods are produced in the same factory these days) has announced a recall of affected bags bearing the production code GB218E5009. For more recall information, please see their company site:

These foods have been sold in shops for several months now, so PLEASE check your bags. If you are feeding these foods but have thrown away the bag, stop feeding it anyway just to be safe.

If you are feeding your cat only wet food, or feeding them a dry food not on this list, then it is unlikely that your cat will be affected so no action is required at this time but please do keep up to date as the situation unfolds.

If you have been feeding your cat one of the affected foods, please pick it up immediately and put it out of their reach, DO NOT FEED your cats any more of this food and contact the company for further instructions. A list of affected foods is also listed here:

There is currently very little information available online as this is a new and rapidly evolving situation, but the Royal Veterinary College has put out a press release confirming the increase in cases of severe pancytopenia and I suspect they will be releasing further updates as they have them:

What is pancytopenia?

Pancytopenia literally means ‘decrease of all cell types’ in the blood. It is usually due to a disorder of the bone marrow such that it is unable to produce enough red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets to maintain health. Lack of red blood cells results in anaemia, lack of white blood cells results in increased susceptibility to infection, and lack of platelets can result in bleeding. It can be caused by viruses, fungal diseases, cancer, autoimmune diseases/drug reactions or toxins. Because this is a new discovery in cats in the UK (it has not yet been shown to be a problem in other countries), there has not been time to confirm the cause so all information is currently our best guess at the time of writing. However, the link between all affected cases so far appears to be that all cats were fed a particular type of grain-free or hypoallergenic dry food as listed above, so in this case, toxicity is the most likely cause.

Symptoms of pancytopenia include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy/tiredness (which many cats will display on hot days anyway)
  • Rapid or difficulty breathing
  • Pale gums
  • Fever
  • Blood in stools or vomit
  • Bleeding from the gums or unusual bruising
  • Weight loss
  • Attempting to eat odd things like cat litter

Symptoms may be mild and many affected cats will recover once they stop eating the food. Other cats may not show any symptoms at all. In other cases, severe disease can result such as significant anaemia, sepsis or excessive bleeding. Again, because this is a new development, we do not know the numbers of cats affected or what percentage of these cats will go on to develop significant disease, but in those that do develop severe pancytopenia, blood transfusions and intensive care are often required at a veterinary hospital and sadly many cats have already died. At the time of writing, approximately 100 cats are known to have been seriously affected, however the number is likely to grow considerably now that publicity regarding this condition has increased and more people are aware of the situation.

What should you do if your cat has been eating this food?

Most importantly, STOP FEEDING THE FOOD IMMEDIATELY. Removing the underlying cause from their diet is the best thing you can do to prevent illness. It is worth stressing that NOT ALL CATS WHO HAVE EATEN THIS FOOD WILL GET SICK, so please do not panic, but do keep a close eye on them and speak with your vet if you have any concerns including the symptoms listed above.

If you feel your cat is unwell after eating the food, a blood test done by your vet can help make a diagnosis. Treatment options are, unfortunately, somewhat limited at the moment as vets do not yet have many answers themselves, but we will be watching the situation closely and offering updated advice as we receive it.

If you think your cat is affected, there is a Facebook group set up for owners that is providing up to date information, but PLEASE do not add to the current confusion by getting involved if your cat has not been affected as it is a very stressful situation for everyone involved.

This is all we know at the moment, but we will try to keep you updated as we learn more. We appreciate that anxiety levels will be high but please do try to remain calm and seek accurate information and treatment as appropriate rather than fall prey to the hysteria that will likely develop online. We are sending love and best wishes to all owners and kitties who are having to go through this very stressful situation and hope to have more information soon.

Last updated 18 June 2021