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Hundreds of cats hit by killer disease which may be linked to pet food

Cutout of AVA's hairball dry food, two cats eating and drinking. An investigation into the recent increase in cats with pancytopenia has revealed a possible link with Fold Hill Food pet food products.
Pet owners have been urged to stop feeding the batches to their cats immediately (Picture: Getty Images)

Hundreds of beloved family cats are falling ill with a life-threatening illness amid fears it could be caused by a popular pet food brand.

A staggering 528 cats have been diagnosed with the blood disease pancytopenia and at least 330 pets have died.

But the real number is expected to be much higher – possibly in the thousands – as many cases are likely going undetected.

Although no sure link has yet been proven, investigators found many of the poor felines had been fed dry hypoallergenic pet food made by Fold Hill Foods.

The company made the precautionary decision to recall several batches of its products from AVA, Sainsbury’s and Applaws on June 15.

You can see a full list of each product you should not be feeding your pet on the Food Standard Agency’s website.

But cases and deaths have continued to rise, suggesting there are still many cat owners who bought the potentially dangerous food before it was recalled and have unknowingly continued to use it.

The Royal Veterinary College (RVC), which fears the number of cats in danger is much higher than reported, is desperately urging vets who have treated cats recently to fill out this survey.

A bag of AVA veterinary approved hairball grain free adult cat dry food. An investigation into the recent increase in cats with pancytopenia has revealed a possible link with Fold Hill Food pet food products.
AVA veterinary approved hairball grain-free adult cat dry food is one of the products which has been recalled
Tabby Cat eats dry cat food from blue bowl. An investigation into the recent increase in cats with pancytopenia has revealed a possible link with Fold Hill Food pet food products.
A link has not yet been proven, but vets say the cases they are aware of could be connected to that particular food product (Picture: Getty Images)

Several local media outlets have revealed heartbreaking stories of people’s furry loved ones suffering with pancytopenia.

Sarah Ibberson, 40, had to make the difficult decision to put down her active, three-year-old cat Boris in June, because he was in so much pain.

The mum from Huddersfield told Yorkshire Live: ‘It was too much for him. It was awful, we didn’t want him to suffer anymore, or have to have an operation that wouldn’t prolong his life.’

About two weeks later she received an email warning people against feeding their cats the food Boris was eating and she had a ‘lightning bolt moment’.

Many owners who have been left distraught over the loss of their pets are then hit with bills of about £10,000.

A group of pet owners have now gathered together to take legal action with law firm Leigh Day.

Leading lawyer Michelle Victor said: ‘We now believe there could potentially be thousands of victims.

‘If you look at the number of cat owners in the UK, the scale of this could be very large indeed.

‘What we have found is that many cases have been retrospectively diagnosed by vets. This suggests many cases may have been missed.

‘It is likely a lot of cats have died and their owners are not aware of the real reason.

‘A huge number of people have lost their family pets. They are part of their family and they are really, really hurting.’

What is pancytopenia and how to spot if your cat could have it:

What is feline pancytopenia?

According to My Family Vets, pancytopenia affects the blood and lowers cats’ red and white blood cells. This can cause dangerous conditions including anaemia, blood clots and serious infections.

Symptoms to look out for:

  • Sluggishness and weakness
  • Pale gums 
  • Bruising 
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fever
  • Bleeding from the mouth or nose 
  • Blood in the urine (known as hematuria)
  • Spitting up of blood (known as hemoptysis)
  • Black, tarry stools (known as melena)

Fold Hill Foods said it is an ‘absolute priority’ to cooperate with the investigation by the RVC and the Food Standards Agency.

The company said in a statement: ‘There are a number of tests on food samples and ingredients being conducted by independent laboratories.

‘As stated by the FSA, there is no definitive evidence to confirm a link at this stage between the cat food products and feline pancytopenia.

‘As cat owners ourselves, we fully understand how upsetting and stressful this situation is and the urgent need to establish why there has been an increase in cases of pancytopenia in the UK.’

If you have fed your cat any potentially dangerous batches of food, the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association advises you to stop using the product immediately and contact your vet.

‘We recognise and appreciate the distress this is causing to many people,’ Fold Hill Foods added.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

For more stories like this, check our news page.

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