Hypothermia In Cats: Symptoms And What To Do

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

Every winter pets die from being left outside in cold temperatures. Just because an animal has fur, does not mean that he or she is able to live in the snow or cold temperatures. They need shelter and warmth to survive the long winter months. If your cat gets out in cold temperatures you are going to need to find her right away. If she’s been out long enough, hypothermia could set in.

Here’s what you need to know about hypothermia (low body temperature) and how to prevent it from ever happening to your beloved furry friends.

What is it?

Hypothermia is an extreme lowering of the body temperature and happens when pets are exposed to frigid temperatures for too long, or if their fur gets wet in a cold, windy environment. When the body temperature drops, heart rate and breathing slow down, which can lead to several problems. The consequences of sustained, severe hypothermia may include neurological problems (including coma), heart problems, kidney failure, slow or no breathing, frostbite, and eventually death.

Symptoms to look for:

  • Strong shivering and trembling followed by no shivering
  • Acting sleepy or lethargic and weak
  • Fur and skin are cold to the touch
  • Body temperature is below 95 degrees (Fahrenheit)
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Pupils may be dilated (the black inner circle of the eye appears larger)
  • Gums and inner eyelids are pale or blue
  • Trouble walking
  • Trouble breathing
  • Stupor, unconsciousness or coma

Although hypothermia is not commonly seen, when it does happen, it tends to be because pet owners fail to recognize the early signs. It also happens when pets are mistakenly left outside overnight.

What you can do:

If you suspect your pet has hypothermia:

  • Remove your pet from the cold and put him in a warm room.
  • Dry off your pet thoroughly either with towels or a hair dryer set on low and held about 12 inches away.
  • Wrap your pet in a blanket (warm it in the clothes dryer first)
  • Wrap warm hot-water bottles in towels (to prevent burning your pet) and place on pet’s abdomen.
  • Check the pet’s temperature with a rectal thermometer. If it’s below 95 degrees, the pet could be at risk for hypothermia. Take your pet to a veterinarian immediately.

If his temperature is above 95 degrees, retake his temperature every 10 to 15 minutes to see how severe the hypothermia is while doing the warming techniques. Once his temperature is 100 degrees or higher, you can remove the hot-water bottle but be sure to keep him warm. Be sure to get him checked by a veterinarian the same day even when his temperature is reaches 99 or higher because one incidence of hypothermia can be harmful and make him prone to it again.

If your pet doesn’t respond to warming up his body within 30 to 45 minutes, go to straight to emergency vet clinic.

Hypothermia can be prevented by not allowing your cat outside for too long in very cold weather or near frigid water. Be aware of how well your pet tolerates the cold as very young, very old pets, as well as those with short hair can be most susceptible to hypothermia. If that’s the case, consider keeping your cat indoors.

Cooking spray can also be applied to their paws to prevent snowball accumulation and cold feet.

Above all, use common sense. If it’s too cold for you to venture outside (even while bundled up), chances are the same goes for your dog or cat.