Fold Hill Foods has taken precautionary action to recall several dry cat food diets due to safety concerns. This is a result of a concerning spike detected by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in the number of pancytopenia cases in cats throughout the UK.

What should I do?

If you have bought any of the products detailed in the food recall, you should not feed them to your cat. Instead, you should do the following.

  • Check if you have bought the affected products and batch code(s) / «use-by / best before» date(s). You can do this by taking a picture of the notice on the Fold Hill website or writing down the batch code(s) / «use-by / best before» date(s) for reference at home.
  • Return the product(s) to the store for a full refund (with or without a receipt).

What is pancytopenia?

In the blood, there are three types of cells:

  • red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the organs;
  • white blood cells, which fight infection; and
  • platelets, which help with coagulation or blood clotting.

Pancytopenia means that all these cell populations are lower than normal. Depending on the cell populations that are the most affected, different clinical signs can be detected (alone or in combination) but general signs are lethargy, bleeding (eg in urine, nosebleeds) and fever:

  • low red blood cells can cause anaemia, weakness, and lethargy;
  • low white blood cells can cause difficulties in fighting infection and fever; and
  • low platelets can cause bruises and bleeding.

What is the treatment?

Treatment and diagnosis will vary depending on the cause of pancytopenia, but it can be fatal if left untreated.

Product recall information

The affected products include some of the ranges of AVA, sold exclusively at Pets at Home, Applaws and Sainsbury’s cat food.

For a full list of products and the affected batch numbers issued by the Food Standards Agency, click here.

To read the statement from Fold Hills Food – the facility where these diets are made, click here.

More information can be found on the RVC website, here.

If you have any concerns, please contact us as soon as possible.

Grass Seed Season

Every summer many different grasses will shed barb-like seeds that can stick to the coat of an animal’s body and range in size from a couple of centimetres to only a few millimetres. In some cases, the dart shaped seeds will burrow into the body.

What are the signs that my pet may have been affected by grass seed?

Head shaking: The seeds can enter the ears often causing a sudden onset of head shaking on a walk. Sometimes the seeds will get caught in the hair around the ear and then slowly migrate into the ear canal at a later date causing intense irritation and infection to develop.

Sneezing: Seeds can be inhaled into the nose resulting in a sudden onset of sneezing and pawing at the nose.

Coughing: Occasionally, seeds may be inhaled into the lungs and result in a cough that fails to be resolved with antibiotics.

Sore eyes: Seeds can sometimes lodge in the corner of the eye, between the third eye lid and the surface of the eye. This causes intense pain and can result in an ulcer on the surface of the eye. The eye may water and appear sore and the dog will hold the eye closed, blink repeatedly and may rub the eye. The seeds can even end up tracking into the tear ducts.

Foot licking: Sometimes seeds can lodge in the hair between the toes. If the seeds are not removed, they will migrate under the skin and this may result in a small abscess in the form of a red lump between the toes, at which the animal will lick. In some cases the seeds can start to migrate up the leg, under the skin.

Swelling in the neck or mouth: In some patients that have removed seeds from their coat through grooming, the seeds may lodge in the mouth between the teeth or may be swallowed and migrate into the tissues around the throat and neck causing an abscess to form.

Why should grass seeds be removed?

It is important to remove seeds, not only because they can cause a lot irritation and pain to the animal but also because, in some cases, they can migrate internally. Deep migration may lead to infections within the chest cavity (pyothorax) or abdominal cavity (peritonitis), both of which are life-threatening conditions often requiring specialist treatment. They can also migrate to places like the spine, causing severe pain and debilitation.

How is the grass seed removed?

In most simple cases the animal will require a sedation or an anaesthetic for the Vet to remove the seed. However, grass seeds can cause serious life-threatening disease and can require major investigations and surgery – it may not be at all obvious at the outset that the problems that a pet has developed are actually being caused by a grass seed (or in some even more challenging cases, several grass seeds)

Grass seeds in the:

  • Ears can generally be relatively readily removed using a long pair of crocodile-type forceps
  • Eyes can sometimes be removed gently with forceps under local anaesthetic or sedation. More serious grass seed injuries may require a general anaesthetic and, in some cases, more extensive surgery for corneal ulcers etc.
  • Feet will need to be removed by lancing the abscess and exploring the cavity between the toes – these can be tricky to find, particularly if they are small and it is not unusual for several holes to be made in the skin to locate the seed
  • Nose can be removed with crocodile forceps if they are easy to reach, but in some cases, e.g. if they have migrated deep into the nostril, they may require the use of a special rigid camera (rhinoscopy) or flexible camera (bronchoscopy) to locate them and flush them out
  • Lungs are more complicated and may require specialist investigation and treatment in the form of a CT scan and removal using the flexible bronchoscope. Occasionally these cases may require major surgery to open the chest and remove an entire affected lung lobe
  • in the mouth and neck require surgery.

How can I help to prevent problems with grass seeds?

Grass seed problems can be avoided by:

  • avoiding walks through fields where seeds are being shed, particularly those with long grass
  • checking the underside of the ear flap and hair around the ears and toes daily for seeds, particularly in long haired breeds like spaniels
  • regular combing/grooming to help remove seeds
  • asking the groomer to clip the hair from the underside of the ear or between the toes during the summer months, remembering to never use scissors because these may inadvertently cut the skin of your dog’s ears or feet.

If you suspect your dog may have a grass seed, then do make an appointment with the vet – the earlier these problems are dealt with, before the seed has had time to migrate around the body, the better it can usually be dealt with. There are many other conditions that can cause similar symptoms to those of grass seeds, so the vet will perform a thorough examination before deciding how best to investigate and treat the problem.

CT scans showing different views of the same dog’s chest with a grass seed lodged in the lungs (the grass seed is arrowed)

A view down a bronchoscope (a flexible camera) showing a grass seed stuck in the tubes in the lungs
A grass seed after removal from a dog’s lung

Willows has a Top Team for Hip Ops

Willows is very happy to announce that we now have an expert team of five Orthopaedic Surgeons who are certified to carry out the complex Total Hip Replacement (THR) operation.
Alexis Bilmont, European Specialist in Small Animal Surgery, is the latest in the Specialist Orthopaedic Team to gain his THR accreditation.
Alexis now joins fellow Specialists, Toby Gemmill, Jonathan Pink, Steve Clarke and Kinley Smith, in one of the largest and most experienced teams in the country.
Toby Gemmill, who is also Clinical Director at Willows, said: “Everyone is delighted Alexis has joined the team and earned his THR accreditation, as it means we can offer even more high-quality care and treatment to our patients.”
The Orthopaedic Team is able to perform total hip replacements on all patients from the smallest dog or cat, weighing only a couple of kilos, right up to the largest dogs weighing more than 100kg.
The skills of the THR Team are also complimented by the support and assistance of on-site Specialists in Diagnostic Imaging, Anaesthesia and Emergency and Critical Care and is committed to providing the best level of care to patients as well as an excellent service to our clients and referring Veterinary Surgeons.
Toby also said “Willows is widely recognised for its ground-breaking work in the THR field and the addition of Alexis will further strengthen this. We are proud of our 20 years’ experience of performing hip replacements, in which time we have improved the quality of life for hundreds of dogs and cats. We are also happy to share our knowledge and experience in this discipline with others in the industry. Our Vets have published scientific papers on total hip replacements and given presentations at conferences and meetings around the world.”
Fig 1

Emergency Airway Surgery for Archie!

Beautiful cat, Archie, was referred to our Soft Tissue Specialist Team at the end of 2018 as he was having severe problems with his breathing. His usual primary Vets were able to see that his larynx wasn’t working as it should and referred him to Willows for urgent assessment.
On arrival, Archie was admitted to our Intensive Care Unit for further assessment and stabilisation. Later the same day, Archie had surgery with our Soft Tissue Specialist, Chris Shales. Archie had paralysis of his larynx which was causing his breathing difficulties. This type of surgery is more commonly carried out in larger dogs and the size of the larynx in cats makes this procedure much more challenging!
Archie spent time in our hospital recovering and we are very pleased to say that he is now at home and back to his usual self!
Archie 2

Romeo Lumped with an Unusual Problem

Romeo, an adorable one year old Cocker Spaniel, was presented to the primary team with a non-painful swelling in his neck. He was normally a very lively and otherwise fit and healthy young dog. Will Robinson, Primary Veterinary Surgeon, discussed with Romeo’s owners the possible reasons for a lump in his neck, the most likely cause being a salivary mucocele or less likely, an abscess or tumour.

Most dogs have four pairs of salivary glands each with a duct that joins their mouth (oral cavity) with the salivary gland itself. Sometimes these glands/ducts can be damaged by trauma which causes an accumulation of saliva under the skin. These are called salivary mucoceles. They can also occur due to salivary stones (sialoliths), foreign bodies or cancer but, in many of these cases the cause is not known.

Romeo had a CT scan of his head and neck to highlight which tissue the swelling was associated with. He also had a needle biopsy of the lump whilst he was sedated. The CT scan showed a close association of the swelling to one of his salivary glands and when the needle sample was performed, a large amount of saliva was obtained. This confirmed the diagnosis of a salivary mucocele.

The best treatment for this condition is surgical removal of the affected salivary gland or glands and the associated ducts. Non-surgical management by making an incision into the mucocele allowing drainage or draining the swelling with a needle is not recommended, as it will often reoccur.

Will performed Romeo’s delicate surgery with Chris Shales, one of Willows’ Specialist Soft Tissue Surgeons and we are very pleased to report that he recovered really well and is back to his old self with no sign of his swelling recurring.

A CT scan slice showing an abnormal swelling next to the salivary gland which represents the mucocele

Earlier this year, 4 year old Akita, Cassie, developed an unusual problem.

Earlier this year, 4 year old Akita, Cassie, developed an unusual problem. She suddenly developed sores inside her mouth and around her lips which were causing her to drool excessively and have bad breath. She also had some sores on her bottom.

Cassie had some biopsies taken which suggested an immune-mediated disease called Erythema Multiform, a rare condition that affects humans too.

In February, Cassie was referred to Willows to see Dermatology Specialist, Jon Hardy. Jon explained that there are numerous possible triggers for this condition. Investigations of the triggers were performed but nothing was found, so medication with high doses of anti-inflammatory medication was started.

Cassie is doing really well and the medication doses are now being reduced. Cassie very recently came in for her recheck and her lesions are in remission, as you can see from the photos.

Why are Willows Specialists, special?

The Specialist vets working at here at Willows provide the highest levels of care for dogs and cats referred to us by veterinary surgeons across the UK. Within the practice we have a large team of highly trained and skilled veterinary Specialists working in a number of disciplines. If your dog or cat is being referred to us by your veterinary surgeon, you can rest assured that our team of Specialist vets will provide the best care possible, whatever the problem may be.

An officially recognised veterinary Specialist is an individual who has had advanced training leading to Diploma status in their field of expertise and who also fulfils other stringent criteria, such as those regarding their involvement in clinical work and research, as well as other responsibilities including the training of others involved in the veterinary profession. Specialist vet status is extremely difficult both to achieve and to maintain, and it is the highest level of recognition of expertise that can be attained in clinical veterinary work.

Willows personnel have been actively involved in clinical research and continuing professional development for nearly 30 years. This activity, along with the training of Residents, Interns and visiting veterinary professionals has helped to keep Willows Referral Service at the forefront of small animal healthcare provision over that time. Our Specialist vets have national and international reputations and most have written scientific papers, published in text books and regularly speak at local, national and international meetings. https://www.willows.uk.net/en-GB/veterinary-professionals/scientific-publications

If your dog or cat is being referred to us by your veterinary surgeon, you can rest assured that our team of Specialist vets will provide the best care possible, whatever the problem may be 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Reggie regains his sight!

Seven-month-old Reggie came to visit our Ophthalmology Team with a history of sudden onset bilateral blindness. He was understandably anxious and quiet when he first arrived. After a full ophthalmic examination, Bilateral Optic Neuritis (a condition where the optic nerve becomes inflamed) was suspected. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain confirmed the diagnosis. Infectious diseases were ruled out and a CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) sample confirmed an inflammatory process.

Systemic treatment with steroids and a chemotherapy drug, cytarabine, was started and after 48 hours, Reggie had regained his sight.

Three weeks after his initial presentation to us, Reggie was a completely different puppy – bright, playful, excited to see us and enjoying many cuddles in the consult room. We are thrilled with Reggie’s amazing recovery.

Presley feeling like a King again!

Presley is a lively young Chihuahua who was always bright and playful. So when his owners found him in a collapsed state one Saturday afternoon, they were extremely concerned. Blood tests at Presley’s local vet showed a severe liver disorder, so Presley was referred to Willows as an emergency the same afternoon.

On examination by our Internal Medicine Specialist, Isuru Gajanayake, Presley was noted to be very weak and showing signs of being in shock. Emergency blood tests showed a possible blood clotting disorder. Presley was given a blood plasma transfusion and monitored in the Intensive Care Unit overnight.

Presley was a lot stronger the following day, so an abdominal ultrasound scan was performed by one of Willows’ Diagnostic Imaging Specialists. The scan showed a severe gall bladder and liver infection, so intravenous antibiotics were administered. Presley responded very well to this and started to behave like his usual bright self. He was discharged home with a course of antibiotics.

Presley was seen back at Willows two weeks later at which time he was very bright and happy. A follow-up ultrasound scan showed his gall bladder returning to normal and his blood test results were exactly as they should be. Presley was given a clean bill of health and remains bright and well at home.

If you are a fan of Instagram, Presley has over four and half thousand followers! It’s not hard to see why – he is a handsome little chap! If you’d like to follow his progress, you can follow him @presleys_allsorts