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What are Myeloproliferative Disorders?

Feline leukemia is the most common cause of cancer in cats, and is an illness that is prevalent in cats but cannot be spread to dogs, other pet species, or even humans. Your cat is at risk if they spend time with infected cats or outdoors.

Myeloproliferative disorders begin in the bone marrow and are classified as a blood cancer.  These disorders cause an overgrowth of cells in the cat's body and are most commonly associated with feline leukemia virus (FeLV).

Symptoms of Myeloproliferative Disorders in Cats

If your cat is affected by myeloproliferative disorders it will exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Weight Loss
  • Pale coloration of mucous membranes
  • Enlargement of liver and spleen 

Causes of Myeloproliferative Disorders in Cats

While the main cause of  myeloproliferative disorders is feline leukemia, it can also affect cats that are recovering from haemobartonellosis infections or panleukopenia. Kittens born to mothers that are infected with FeLV are also at an increased risk of developing these disorders.

Just like FeLV, both haemobartonellosis and panleukopenia are also contracted between cats. Panleukopenia is the most contagious of them all.

Feline Leukemia

Feline leukemia is incurable. It is a viral infection that causes issues with immunodeficiency. There are effective drugs that can help cats with FeLV live longer lives. The life expectancy of a cat that has contracted this virus can be anywhere from a couple of years to a decade or more, depending on the cat and the treatment.

Symptoms of feline leukemia include:

  • Jaundice
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Pale gums
  • Change in appetite and weight loss
  • Infections of the bladder and respiratory system
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Change in condition of skin and coat

Haemobartonellosis Infections

Haemobartonellosis infection is a parasitic infection that is commonly contracted by cats that have had a urinary tract infection or pneumonia. When contracted by cats that also have feline leukemia symptoms can include:

  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anemia
  • Lethargy
  • Jaundice
  • Fever


Panleukopenia is most commonly referred to as feline distemper. This illness is similar to the structure of canine parvovirus, but is not transmittable between dogs and cats. Panleukopenia is highly transmittable between cats, and it is important that if your cat is showing symptoms you seek veterinary care immediately. Symptoms include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Lack of appetite
  • Depression
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration

Some cats will die from this disease without ever showing symptoms. While this illness is most common in kittens, it can be contracted by cats of any age. 

Diagnosis of Myeloproliferative Disorders in Cats

If your cat is showing symptoms of myeloproliferative disorders and has previously been diagnosed with FeLV, or one of the other mentioned illnesses, you should take them in for testing. Your veterinarian will not only look at your feline's health history, but they will also do blood and urine tests and a biochemistry profile. X-Rays are taken to look for enlargement in the spleen and liver. They will look for anemia and red blood cells that are abnormally large.

Haemobartonellosis infections are found through a blood smear. Panleukopenia is most often found through fecal testing.

Treatment of Myeloproliferative Disorders in Cats

Because this illness can cause dehydration, in severe cases your cat may need to be hospitalized and given fluids. There is not a specific treatment for myeloproliferative disorders, but antibiotics may be used to treat or prevent secondary infections.

There is a poor prognosis with this ailment. A visit to an oncologist may result in chemotherapy that could help extend the cat's life.

If your cat has been diagnosed with haemobartonellosis it may need a blood transfusion, as well as other related treatments for myeloproliferative disorders. If your cat has been diagnosed with panleukopenia it will be isolated to keep from affecting other cats and will be treated with antibiotics and fluids. 

Recovery of Myeloproliferative Disorders in Cats

A cat with a myeloproliferative disorder will need regular blood tests and bone marrow tests for the duration of its life to monitor its condition. It could also require blood transfusions and ongoing medication. 

Preventing illnesses that can lead to a myeloproliferative disorder can be key in maintaining your cat’s health. Panleukopenia and feline leukemia can be prevented with vaccines available from your veterinarian.