Hypothermia & Frostbite serious threats to cats in winter

Feral cats benefit from TNR programs

Feral cats benefit from coming inside out of the cold.

Severe hypothermia can kill you pet. Frostbite can lead to serious damage to the ears, tail, or paws.

Both are serious and if serious, require immediate veterinary care. The best treatment – make sure your cat stays inside, or if they must go out, have plenty of food, water, and shelter, and a quick way to seek cover from harsh, cold, wet winter weather.

For those of us humans, and our feline and canine friends, hypothermia remains a serious threat, as the snow keeps piling up, and the temperatures dip below zero.

Simply put, hypothermia is below-a normal body temperature, and it is usually caused by exposure to cold weather. According to PetMD.com, hypothermia happens when the body cannot maintain normal temperature, ‘causing a depression of the central nervous system. It may also affect the heart, blood flow, breathing, and negatively impact the immune system. An irregular heartbeat, trouble breathing, and loss of consciousness to the point of coma may result.’

Three phases of hypothermia:

  • Mild hypothermia is classified as a body temperature of 90 – 99°F (or 32 – 35°C)
  • Moderate hypothermia at 82 – 90°F (28 – 32°C)
  • And severe hypothermia is less than 82°F (28°C)

Hypothermia and frostbite are serious hazards for cats exposed to the cold winter temperatures.

Hypothermia and frostbite are serious hazards for cats exposed to the cold winter temperatures.

So keeping your pet safe during harsh winter weather is important. The best way to manage hypothermia is to avoid it. Always provide warm, dry shelter for pets when they’re outdoors.

Hypothermia symptoms in your cat:

  • Violent shivering, followed by listlessness
  • Weak pulse
  • Letharg
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Problems breathing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Rectal temperature below 98°F
  • Coma
  • Cardiac arrest

What you should do if your pet has hypothermia:

  • Wrap your pet in a warm blanket or coat. Warm blankets and coats in the dryer for a few minutes.
  • Bring your pet into a warm room.
  • Give your pet a solution of four teaspoons honey or sugar dissolved in warm water to drink. If the pet is too weak to drink you can also put 1-2 teaspoons of corn syrup on the gums, proving an immediate energy boost.
  • Place warm, towel-wrapped water bottles against your pet’s abdomen or at her armpits and chest, then wrap her in a blanket. Do not use hair dryers, heating pads, or electric blankets to warm up a hypothermic pet as this may result in burns or cause surface blood vessels to dilate, compromising blood flow to vital organs.
  • Call your veterinarian immediately.

Frostbite:

Frostbite happens when a part of the cat’s body, including their paws, tail, or ears, freezes. Severe winter weather, especially when windy or humid, can lead to frostbite. While frostbite will not kill your kitty, it is very painful, and may require antibiotics to treat any infections, and in severe cases may require amputation.

Signs of Frostbite:

  • Pale, gray, or blue skin at first
  • Red, puffy skin later
  • Pain in ears, tail, or paws when touched
  • Skin that stays cold
  • Shriveled skin

Frostbite Treatment:

  • Apply warm (not hot) water for at least 20 minutes to the frostbitten area. Do not use hair dryers, heating pads, or electric blankets to warm up a frostbitten pet as this may cause burns.
  • Handle the affected areas very carefully; don’t rub or massage them as you could cause permanent damage.
  • Call your vet immediately.

The best place for kitty is safe inside in a warm, cozy bed, or in front of a sunny window, out of harms way. However, sometimes kitty may bolt outside,
or there may be a neighborhood or feral cat that is in distress. It’s a subject that we need to keep front and center during the cold winter months. That why Paws
for Reflection chose to bring this issue to the forefront once again. Last year, we shared, Cats like humans get frostbite and hypothermia. 

What do you do to keep your cats safe? Have you ever had to deal with a cat, dog, or horse with frostbite or hypothermia? Do you have any additional suggestions we could add to this list to help pets cope with hypothermia or frostbite? Please share and weigh in on the discussion.

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BJ

BJ Bangs is an established journalist, photographer, and an aspiring author. She loves everything about cats, including writing about them.

6 Responses

  1. Thank you for sharing this important information to protect pets. I’m lucky that I live in a more moderate climate so I haven’t had to deal with frostbite or hypothermia. Will share.

  2. Ellen Pilch says:

    We know all about frostbite.. When we found Pranice, she had been out in the cold and her little ear tips fell off 🙁

  3. BJ says:

    Thanks for the share. An issue that’s all too often overlooked.

  1. February 21, 2015

    […] Paws For Reflection blog has a great post about hypothermia and frostbite in cats, which is very important considering how brutal this winter has been for so many parts of the […]

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