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Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook

COLD TEMPERATURE EXPOSURE

HYPOTHERMIA (ABNORMALLY LOW TEMPERATURE)

Prolonged exposure to cold results in a drop in body temperature. This is most likely to occur when a cat is wet. Hypothermia also occurs with shock, after a long anesthetic and in newborn kittens. Prolonged chilling burns up the available energy and predisposes to low blood sugar.

The signs of hypothermia are violent shivering followed by listlessness and lethargy; a rectal temperature below 97°F (which is diagnostic); and finally, collapse and coma. Hypothermic cats can withstand extended periods of cardiac arrest because low body temperature lowers metabolic rate. CPR may be successful in such individuals.

Treatment: Wrap your cat in a blanket or coat and carry it into the house. If the cat is wet (having fallen into icy water), give a warm bath. Rub vigorously with towels to dry the skin.

Warm a chilled cat by applying warm water packs to the axilla (armpits), chest and abdomen. The temperature of the pack should be about that of a baby bottle, warm to the wrist. Take the rectal temperature every 10 minutes. Continue to change the packs until the rectal temperature reaches 100°F. Avoid warming with a hair dryer or air comb, which may cause burns.

As the cat begins to move about, give some honey or glucose, four teaspoons of sugar added to a pint of water.

How to warm a chilled kitten is discussed in PEDIATRICS: Warming a Chilled Kitten.



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