Authorities in Britain are looking into whether toxic cat food could be the cause of a huge surge in a rare cat iillness. The Royal Veterinary College says at least 528 cases of the blood condition feline pancytopenia have been reported to it in recent months, and around 330 of the ill cats have died. The RVC says the true numbers are probably far higher, since it only receives data from a small percentage of veterinarians. The RVC and Britain's Food Standards Agency suspect the outbreak could be linked to several brands of cat food, all from the same supplier, that were recalled in June, ABC reports. A full list can be found here.
Pancytopenia involves a rapid decrease in all three kinds of blood cells. The RVC says the initial signs include lethargy and a lack of appetite, often followed by bleeding from the mouth. It says the condition could be caused by mycotoxins, toxic compounds produced by fungi that grow on crops including grains and vegetables, often under humid conditions, the Guardian reports. Fold Hill Foods, the British producer of the recalled brands, says it is cooperating with the investigation, and there has been no "definitive evidence" of a link between its products and the outbreak. "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," a spokesperson said. (Read more cats stories.)