Myelodysplasia in Cats

Myelodysplasia in Cats

Health & Safety

Myelodysplasia is a serious condition that negatively impacts a cat's bone marrow. The disorder is also known as aplastic anaemia and it's when essential red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets are not produced in high enough levels by a cat’s bone marrow. When things are working well, around three million red blood cells are released into a cat's blood stream every second or so, but when things start to go wrong, the bone marrow cannot replenish the red blood cells fast enough which can lead to all sorts of complications.

The Causes

Studies have shown that one of the causes of myelodysplasia in cats has to do with fatty tissues known as adipose which limit the way bone marrow can reproduce the necessary levels of red blood cells. This can lead to low levels of platelets, red blood cells and white blood cells which in turn means that harmful carbon dioxide is not removed from a cat's system. It is the task of the red blood cells (RBCs) to remove carbon dioxide and to carry oxygen around the body. White blood cells are responsible for fighting off any infection and foreign bodies that might invade a cat's body and if their levels fall too low, it can seriously compromise a cat's blood clotting abilities. This in turn can lead to extensive bleeding both internally and externally.

There are several reasons why a cat might develop the condition and this could include the following:

  • Infection
  • Feline leukemia virus (FeLV)
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
  • Feline Parvovirus infection
  • Rikettsial organism infections, e.g., ehrlichia
  • Drugs, certain medication and chemicals
  • Estrogen supplements
  • Certain antibiotics
  • NSAIDs
  • Chemotherapy medication
  • Radiation therapy

Symptoms to Watch Out For

When a cat suffers from the condition, it could affect the levels of their red and white blood cells as well as their platelets. With this said, signs of there being something wrong with a cat would depend on which of the cells are most affected. With this said, the most common symptoms associated with the disorder could include the following:

  • Infections that continually flare up and which prove hard to clear up
  • An elevated temperature/fever
  • Red or purple spots on a cat's skin caused by very small haemorrhages
  • Blood in urine which is referred to as haematuria
  • Nosebleeds which is referred to as epistaxis
  • Black coloured stools - this is caused by bleeding in a cat's gastrointestinal tract
  • Pale coloured gums
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy

Diagnosing the Problem

A vet would need to have a cat's full medical history and ideally be told how the symptoms first manifested themselves. The vet would thoroughly examine a cat suspected of suffering from myelodysplasia and would recommend carrying out the following tests which would help confirm a diagnosis:

  • A complete blood test
  • A biochemical profile
  • A urinalysis
  • A sample of a cat's bone marrow

A vet would need to rule out any underlying causes which includes whether a cat has developed some sort of infectious disease.

Treatment Options

Once a vet has managed to confirm a diagnosis, they would set in place a suitable treatment plan which could well involve hospitalising a cat so they can be closely monitored whilst they are being initially treated. Cats with the condition need extensive support until they can produce the correct levels of cells themselves. Cats suffering from the condition generally need to be given blood transfusions should they be suffering from severe anaemia. They would also need to be put on a course of antibiotics if they have developed a serious infection.

Managing a Cat with the Condition

A cat suffering from myelodysplasia as previously mentioned would need to be hospitalised to begin with so their condition can be closely monitored as their treatment begins. A vet might need to take a few samples of a cat's bone marrow to see if the treatment they have set in place is working as well as it should which means regular visits to the surgery once a cat is allowed to go home.


Sadly, most cats that are diagnosed with the condition do not survive even when they are given extensive treatment and supportive care. With this said, the younger a cat happens to be, the better their chances of surviving although their treatment may well have to last several months if they are to survive at all.



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