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Leukopenia In Cats

Leukopenia is a condition that negatively impacts a cat's white blood cell count. When levels drop too low, it puts cats more at risk of developing health issues and it put them in danger of catching all sorts of nasty bugs and infections thanks to the fact their immune systems are compromised. Cats that develop leukopenia need to be seen by a vet sooner rather than later so their condition can be diagnosed and treated to prevent things from getting any worse.

The Causes

There are many reasons why a cat's white blood cell count might be too low. White blood cells are also referred to as leukocytes and their function is to combat bacteria which they do by releasing both neutrophils and eosinophils into the bloodstream when these microorganisms enter a cat's system. However, other reasons why a cat might have too few white blood cells in their bloodstream could include them suffering from the following conditions:

  • Viral infections which includes disorders like Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
  • The viruses take hold in a cat's white blood cells and once there, they manage to replicate at an alarming rate which in turn negatively impacts the level of WBCs in a cat's blood stream. Other reasons why a cat might have a low white blood cell count could include because they are suffering from the following conditions:
  • Bacterial infections namely respiratory issues, sepsis or abscesses
  • Bone marrow disorders
  • Panleukopenia
  • Pancreatitis
  • A reaction to medication and certain drugs more especially drugs prescribed to manage arthritis
  • Stress

Symptoms Associated with the Condition

When a cat's white blood cell count falls too low, the symptoms associated with the condition depend on the underlying cause. However, most cats show the following signs of there being something wrong with them:

  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue/ lethargy
  • Swollen gums
  • Discharge from nose and eyes
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea often containing blood
  • Loss of hair
  • Change of character
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swollen abdomen
  • An increased need to urinate
  • Jaundice
  • Muscle and joint pain

Diagnosing the Problem

A vet would ideally need to have a cat's full medical history and know how the onset of any symptoms first presented themselves. The more information a vet can be given the better. The sort of tests a vet would typically recommend carrying out which would help confirm a diagnosis could include the following:

  • A complete blood count
  • A full chemical blood profile
  • A urinalysis

Treatment Options

The sort of treatment a vet would recommend for cats suffering from leukopenia would depend on the underlying cause of the problem. Should it be found a cat is suffering from a viral infection, sadly there are no treatments available. However, supportive care is all-important and vets can treat secondary infections that may flare up. The bad news is that when cats are diagnosed as suffering from FIB, the prognosis is poor with most succumbing to their symptoms all too quickly.

Should the problem be diagnosed as being a bacterial infection, a cat can be treated with a course of antibiotics, but it's essential for the course to be completed for the treatment to be effective. If the cause of a cat's low white blood cell count is due to a bone marrow disorder, again there are no treatments available and as such supportive care is all important although if a cat's condition is deemed severe, they would need to be hospitalised so they can be given vital blood and plasma transfusions in to stabilise their condition.

Prognosis

The prognosis for cats when they suffer from leukopenia depends on the underlying cause and how well they respond to any treatment they are given. With this said, if a vet can treat the underlying cause successfully, the prognosis can be good. If, however, the vet can only treat secondary health issues and not the underlying cause sadly, the prognosis for cats suffering from leukopenia is usually guarded.


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