Vets desperately trying to save cats caught up in the food ‘poisoning’ scandal were forced to resort to dogs’ blood as demand for transfusions soared.
Owners racked up £14,000 bills for the procedure that can cost £2,500 a time and only buys a cat 24 hours because it is from a canine.
At one practice, the only blood available was in Portugal and would have cost £10,000 to import.
Rosie Thomson’s, 29, cat Oreo, four, fell ill in March and was diagnosed with pancytopenia first week of April. They reached £8,000 limit on insurance and he was put down end of April. Pictured: Ms Thomson holds up a picture of Oreo at her West York’s home, August 6, 2021
The Cat Welfare Group is now trying to create a central donor database to control the crisis. There is no national storage centre for cat blood because transfusions are rarely needed.
After highlighting the cases this week, the Daily Mail has now identified cats diagnosed with a rare blood condition after eating Fold Hill Foods products as early as March – three months before the bags were recalled.
At least 330 cats have died from the illness, according to the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), but the true number is likely to be higher. Lawyers fear it could be in the thousands.
A direct link has not yet been proven between the premium food brands – Applaws, Pets at Home’s AVA and Sainsbury’s Hypoallergenic Recipe – but the RVC and Food Standards Agency (FSA) are investigating.
The RVC said from May it noticed an increase in cases of pancytopenia – when blood cell count falls rapidly – and the FSA recalled the brand on June 15.
Rosie and George Thomson’s cat Oreo fell ill on March 28 and was diagnosed with pancytopenia within a week. He had been eating the Sainsbury’s food but vets did not establish a possible link.
Laura Fallon, 29, and her husband, 34, (pictured with their cat) had to put their moggy down on April 22. The only blood available was in Portugal for £10,000
Mrs Thomson, a photographer, and her footballer husband, both 29 and from Leeds, were forced to max out the £8,000 limit on their insurance and as a result had to make the devastating decision to put Oreo down on April 22.
Mrs Thomson said: ‘They gave him two blood transfusions but there was no improvement. It was horrendous.’
Laura and Frank Fallon’s moggy April got the last bag in their surgery. The only blood available was in Portugal for £10,000. They had to put her down on April 22.
Mrs Fallon, 29, and her husband, 34, who both work in accountancy and live in Didsbury, Manchester, said: ‘We either paid £10,000 to get some more that might not even work or we put her to sleep. It was devastating.’
Ben and Lisa Holwell racked up a £14,000 bill with several transfusions for their kittens Cheetah and Pantha.
Mr Holwell, 47, a house husband who lives with his support services assistant wife, 46, in Little Weighton, East Yorkshire, said: ‘Each blood transfusion was £2,500, while the blood tests were £200 each – and that’s before the medication and the £250 a day in the emergency vets. They offered us dogs’ blood.’ Pantha pulled through but Cheetah died.
Lorri Seymour, 51, of the Cat Welfare Group, explained: ‘Vets have been forced to use dogs’ blood. It is perfectly healthy but only lasts for 24 hours while they find other donors.’
Steven Barrett, 40, said his local vet was ‘full’ with sick cats when he called for help last Monday. The barrister, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, said his cat Freya passed away the next day.
Fold Hill Foods said: ‘We continue to fully co-operate with both the FSA and the RVC as they continue to investigate all potential causes, feed and non-feed related.’ Sainsbury’s is assisting the inquiry, while Pets At Home is working with experts to find the source of the illness.
The FSA said: ‘Since the voluntary recall was issued, figures released by the RVC have shown a decrease in the rate of reported new cases of feline pancytopenia.’
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