Systemic toxicosis associated with azathioprine administration in domestic cats

Karin Muth Beale From the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (Beale, Clemmons), Physiological Sciences (Altman), and Comparative and Experimental Pathology (Bolon), College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610-0126.

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David Altman From the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (Beale, Clemmons), Physiological Sciences (Altman), and Comparative and Experimental Pathology (Bolon), College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610-0126.

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Roger R. Clemmons From the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (Beale, Clemmons), Physiological Sciences (Altman), and Comparative and Experimental Pathology (Bolon), College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610-0126.

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Brad Bolon From the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (Beale, Clemmons), Physiological Sciences (Altman), and Comparative and Experimental Pathology (Bolon), College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610-0126.

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Summary

Five cats were treated with an azathioprine suspension (2.2 mg/kg of body weight on alternate days) and 2 cats were given vehicle (controls) for 9 weeks. Complete blood and platelet counts and serum biochemistry variables were monitored weekly. Bone marrow aspirates were evaluated every 3 weeks, and core bone marrow biopsy was performed at the end of the study. Profound neutropenia (< 600 cells/μl) was observed in all treated cats, and 1 cat developed pancytopenia. Treatment was discontinued if the wbc count was < 3,000 cells/μl. Four weeks after discontinuation of azathioprine, 1 treated cat again was given azathioprine at a lower dosage (1.1 mg of azathioprine/kg on alternate days) and neutropenia recurred within 2 weeks. During treatment, 3 cats developed thrombocytosis, and 2 developed thrombocytopenia. In 4 of 5 cats, neutropenia and thrombocytopenia resolved when azathioprine was discontinued. Bone marrow cytologic examination during treatment revealed reduction of the neutrophil line, with relative increase in monocytes. Core bone marrow biopsy at the completion of the study revealed hypocellular marrow with marked decrease in the myeloid series in cats given azathioprine. One of the cats that was treated with azathioprine had a hypercellular marrow with increased numbers of mature granulocytes and precursors; however, azathioprine had been discontinued 3 weeks prior to biopsy. Alterations in serum biochemical variables were not associated with azathioprine. Two cats that were treated with azathioprine developed respiratory tract infections, and 1 of them was euthanatized during the study.

Summary

Five cats were treated with an azathioprine suspension (2.2 mg/kg of body weight on alternate days) and 2 cats were given vehicle (controls) for 9 weeks. Complete blood and platelet counts and serum biochemistry variables were monitored weekly. Bone marrow aspirates were evaluated every 3 weeks, and core bone marrow biopsy was performed at the end of the study. Profound neutropenia (< 600 cells/μl) was observed in all treated cats, and 1 cat developed pancytopenia. Treatment was discontinued if the wbc count was < 3,000 cells/μl. Four weeks after discontinuation of azathioprine, 1 treated cat again was given azathioprine at a lower dosage (1.1 mg of azathioprine/kg on alternate days) and neutropenia recurred within 2 weeks. During treatment, 3 cats developed thrombocytosis, and 2 developed thrombocytopenia. In 4 of 5 cats, neutropenia and thrombocytopenia resolved when azathioprine was discontinued. Bone marrow cytologic examination during treatment revealed reduction of the neutrophil line, with relative increase in monocytes. Core bone marrow biopsy at the completion of the study revealed hypocellular marrow with marked decrease in the myeloid series in cats given azathioprine. One of the cats that was treated with azathioprine had a hypercellular marrow with increased numbers of mature granulocytes and precursors; however, azathioprine had been discontinued 3 weeks prior to biopsy. Alterations in serum biochemical variables were not associated with azathioprine. Two cats that were treated with azathioprine developed respiratory tract infections, and 1 of them was euthanatized during the study.

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