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What are Overproduction of White Blood Cells?

The eosinophils release regulatory proteins into the tissues called eosinophil-derived cytokines and eosinophil granule products. When too many eosinophils release these proteins, organ damage and death may occur.

When the bone marrow produces a greater quantity than necessary of a type of white blood cell called eosinophils, the condition is known as hypereosinophilic syndrome. White blood cells are part of the immune system and help protect the cat's body from foreign invaders and infectious diseases. When the cat becomes ill, the hematopoietic stem cells in the blood marrow produce extra white blood cells to fight these foreign invaders. Normally eosinophils make up a small portion of the white blood cell production as they are typically produced in response to parasites and allergies.

Symptoms of Overproduction of White Blood Cells in Cats

Symptom severity typically increases gradually as the number of eosinophils increase. These symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Weight loss
  • Emaciation
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea that may contain blood
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Enlarged liver
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Abdominal masses
  • Thickened, non-painful intestines
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Itching
  • Seizures
  • Skin lesions
  • Chronic cough

Causes of Overproduction of White Blood Cells in Cats

It is not known what causes hypereosinophilic syndrome to occur. Researchers believe that it may be caused by an overreaction to an unidentified antigen. This antigenic stimulus may arise from two different viral strains, prompting the production of white blood cells. Cats who have had eosinophilic enteritis, a disease that causes inflammation in the small intestine, may be predisposed to hypereosinophilic syndrome.

Diagnosis of Overproduction of White Blood Cells in Cats

The veterinarian will need to know the cat's health history, when the symptoms first began and a detailed list of the symptoms. The veterinarian will physically examine the cat, listening to its heart and lungs and feeling for swollen lymph nodes and masses in its body.

Several labs will be performed in order to identify the condition and rule out other conditions that may present with similar symptoms. These labs include a complete blood count, a biochemical blood profile, a cytochemical staining, a fecal flotation test and a urinalysis. These tests will typically show a high number of white blood cells, anemia, and organ dysfunction in the affected organs.

A bone marrow aspiration will also be performed. The cat will be given anesthesia while the veterinarian removes a small amount of the bone marrow in order to determine what is causing the high levels of white blood cells to occur. Because blood cells are made from cells in the bone marrow, the aspiration is an important test to rule out similar conditions. The veterinarian may also biopsy the lymph nodes, spleen, liver or intestines. The biopsy can be particularly helpful in distinguishing the condition from eosinophilic leukemia. During the biopsy, the cat will be placed under general anesthesia while a small sample of tissue is removed from the organs.

Radiography may also be used to look at the condition of the affected organs. A special radiocontrast dye will be injected into the cat. Computed tomography (CT) scans and X-rays will then be taken. These tests may show thickened intestines, abnormal intestinal lining, fibrosis, coagulation of the heart arteries and enlarged lymph nodes.

Treatment of Overproduction of White Blood Cells in Cats


Steroids, such as prednisone or prednisolone, will be administered to the cat. Steroids will help to stop the production of eosinophils. Hydroxyurea, an antineoplastic drug, may also be administered. Hydroxyurea can also slow down the production of eosinophils, allowing the immunoglobulin concentrations to normalize and the organs to heal. If these medications are no longer working, the veterinarian may start the cat on chemotherapy, which can slow the reproduction of the white blood cells by inhibiting the DNA synthesis process.

Fluid Therapy

Cats who are dehydrated will need to receive intravenous fluids to correct fluid loss due to diarrhea or vomiting. The veterinarian will keep a close watch on the affected organs during fluid therapy to ensure that the kidneys and heart are processing the fluids normally.

Nutritional Support

If the cat refuses food, nutritional support will need to be administered to ensure that the cat is receiving adequate calories for healing. A feeding tube may be inserted through the cat's nose in order to deliver this nutrition.

Recovery of Overproduction of White Blood Cells in Cats

Though medications normally work to resolve the overproduction of the white blood cells, they may lose their effectiveness over time. With treatment, cats typically live six months to three years after diagnosis. The cat will need to regularly follow up with the veterinarian in order to monitor its blood count levels and medication effectiveness. Because the prescribed medications have side effects, it's important to take note of any side effects the cat is experiencing in order to adjust medications accordingly.

Overproduction of White Blood Cells Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

15 Years
Critical condition
0 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

Pale Pink Gums
Weight Loss
Loss of Appetite

Hi There,

My cat Lily was taken to the vets yesterday (21/11/18) after going off her food the day before (20/11/18) and become very lethargic. Between Sunday 18th & Wed 21st she had lost a lot of weight, from being probably a little bit over weight to feeling her ribs/spine & pelvis.

The vet checked her over, no obvious signs of tumours or swollen lymph nodes, however her gums were virtually white, very clear sign she was anaemic. The vet took bloods and put her on fluids. Bloods came back, organ function fine, FIV negative, FeLV negative but a red blood cell count of 9%. The vet explained a normal sound should be between 35/40% and believed this is most likely cased by cancer of the bone marrow. Initially we agreed to proceed with an abdominal ultrasound and chest X-rays but then the vet said she was 90% certain it was cancer and a very aggressive form due to the very little time she went from being bright eyed to almost completely unresponsive.

Further testing would involve a blood transfusion, bone marrow biopsy and potentially chemo and the vet said coming out of the at the other end was very unlikely. We didn't think that would be fair on her at her age and sadly made the decision to have her euthanised :( it was the most deviating thing I have ever done! Now I am winding myself up reading other potential causes I.E toxins, she had recently been seen drinking out of a dirty bucket that someones cigarettes had been floating around in....it is possible we were too hasty to put it down to cancer when in fact it could have been come kind of poisoning? Am I being stupid, would toxins have shown up in the bloods or would you have to specifically look for them?

I'm not questioning the vets judgment, well I kind of am, I just want to know if poisoning could have been the case and if we could have saved her?

Thank you

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1 Year
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Constant lip licking and diahrrea.
Lip licking. Vomiting. Diahrrea
Constant lip licking.

Hi there! My Bengal kitty was found to have bilateral rim signs on both of his kidneys and mixed echogenicity within his left kidney through an abdominal ultra sound. He is only a year old. On his last CBC Aug. 6th he had a total WBC of 21.8(range 3.2-16.8) with his neutrophils being 11,554(range 2500-8500) and Lymphocytes being 8,938(range 1200-8000) and basophils 0....... today, Aug.19th, his total WBC increased to 22.01(range 2.87-17.02) with his Lymphocytes being 11.22(range 0.92-6.88) and neutrophils decreasing to 9.49 (range 1.48-10.29) with his basophils being high at 1.6% (.35 in a range of 0.01-0.26)

Should I be worried about GI/Renal lymphoma?

He has had chronic diahrrea with blood/mucus ever since I picked him up from the airport from the breeder back in December(8 months ago). Has tried multiple diets and all possible diahrrea medications/probiotics with no improvement and was just prescribed prednisone. He has not yet had a biopsy done for IBD. He has tested negative for all parasites/Felv/FIV. Dry FIP is a possibility due to the specific structural changes in his kidney so young. His tummy is a little swollen, but with no sign of fluid build up. As of now, his kidney functions normally at 1.6.

Should I be concerned for future kidney function?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3318 Recommendations
If there have been signs of changes of the kidney(s) on ultrasound you should think about having regular (every six months or so) kidney function tests done to ensure that the values are within physiological range. As for the high neutrophil count and lymphocytes count, it may be indicative of a few different conditions which may include lymphoma among other causes; however without examining Santorini I cannot say what the specific cause may be. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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12 Years
Serious condition
-1 found helpful
Serious condition

My 12 year old cat was diagnosed with acute leukemia with anemia. The anemia came on pretty quickly over about a 2-week period. She received a blood transfusion 2 weeks ago and I was told that would last 2 weeks at the most. We are now at 15 days and she seems to be doing quite well still (not 100%, but much much better than pre transfusion). Her white blood cell count was extremely high and they were not able to tell if she has myeloid or lymphoid leukemia (was examined by 3 different facilities). My question is, since she is doing so well with the transfusion, is it possible that it kicked the leukemia into "remission"? Her transfusion brought PCV from 10% to 20%. Here are some of her blood cell counts:WBC: 52,510/ul (N: 5500-19500), Reticulocytes: 67,000/ul (0-50000), PLT: 2,450,000 (N:300,000-700,000). She is back to eating fairly normally, using litter box, grooming, greeting me at the door. She is still not quite as active - but it's a subtle difference. If doing well, would it make the white blood cell count drop back down closer to normal levels - or will that remain high because of leukemia? Are we still on borrowed time - waiting for the symptoms of anemia/leukemia to surface again very soon (just not as soon as was originally expected)? I was told she'd have 2 weeks to 6 months to live and that was if she got chemo which I'm not doing. But since she responded well to the transfusion - it has just left me 2nd guessing a lot of the diagnosis. Any insights would be helpful.

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1607 Recommendations
Without a bone marrow biopsy, your veterinarian was making an educated guess as to her diagnosis, which we do often do in medicine. If she does have leukemia, her white cells would likely remain high, but she may do quite well on medications to try and control this problem. Your veterinarian will be able to give you more insight into her situation, as they know more what medications she might be on and what her physical condition is. I hope that Libby continues to do well.

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13 Years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Little appetite

Medication Used


My cat has high WBC count. 28.8- Neutrophil 23.9, Moncyte -1.152,
Basophil 0.576. He's on 1/2 tablet of Pred 2 x a week. Everything else is normal. I just want a second opinion. What else can I do to improve his condition?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3318 Recommendations
You didn’t mention whether or not the units were blood cell counts or a percentage of total white blood cells, however it seems that there is an increase in neutrophils (regardless of which units used) but again it isn’t mentioned whether the band count or segmented count is high; the monocyte and basophil counts appear within reference range for both units commonly used. Common causes for neutrophilia may include infection, inflammation, immune mediated diseases, some cancers, response to corticosteroid therapy among other causes; without knowing the underlying cause of the symptoms, I cannot recommend any other course of treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.idexx.eu/globalassets/documents/parameters/8964-us-neutrophils-interpretive-summary.pdf

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