Norfolk cat owners warned as disease kills hundreds nationally

Vets have seen a spike in a usually rare disease in cats called pancytopenia.

Vets have seen a spike in a usually rare disease in cats called pancytopenia. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Cat owners across Norfolk and Waveney have been warned to wary of a disease which has spiked in recent months, killing hundreds of pets across the country. 

The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has so far this year recorded 528 cases of pancytopenia, a usually rare bone marrow condition, with 335 of those cats dying.

A regional breakdown of cases is not available, but a spokesman from the RVC said the total national figure could be much higher than what had been reported to them, as they only got figures from a small percentage of vets. 

Helen Boast, veterinary surgeon from Westover Vets in North Walsham and the soon-to-be-opened Cromer Vets, said they had seen some cases of the disease, which has been linked to certain brands of cat food. 

 Helen Boast, branch director of the new Westover Vets practice in Cromer. 

Helen Boast, branch director of the new Westover Vets practice in Cromer. - Credit: Neil Didsbury

She said: "There was a food recall announced in June, and we did see a few cases around that time. Quite a few cats were presenting with vague symptoms.

"It can mean cats can sleep more, are generally lethargic, not as keen to eat, and with pale gums - if they'll let you look at their gums."

Mrs Boast said the disease led to a reduction in red and white blood cells in cats.

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She added: "All of the cases that we saw survived, but there have been cases where the cats were very poorly. 

"Cats are very stoic animals, and they don't always let you know how they are feeling." 

Emma Lake, practice manager of Chapelfield Vets in Wymondham, said they had seen one case of the disease, in July. 

She said: “We diagnosed it in practice and referred it. We were given information about it when the RVC started to see a few cases and it had been linked to certain brands of cat food, and that was when we started to inform our clients about it.”

Food Standards Agency (FSA) announced a recall of dry cat food brands linked to the disease in June. This included several varieties of Sainsburys Hypoallergenic Recipe, Ava cat food from Pets at Home, and Applaws products, which are sold by Amazon and other pet food shops.