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What is Low Body Temperature?

Hypothermia is a serious health condition that can become a life-threatening situation within minutes if the feline is unable to restore its core body temperature. Outdoor cats, stray cats, short haired and hairless cats are commonly affected by hypothermia during the winter months, but cats that undergo surgery are also at risk. Anesthesia slows the heart rate and flow of blood, resulting in a lower body temperature. Veterinary professionals use proactive methods during the use of anesthesia to prevent hypothermia, but prolonged surgeries can put a cat at risk. Low body temperature can also be an after-effect of cats in shock, cardiovascular disease and limb thromboembolism, so seeking a proper diagnosis from a veterinary professional is a must. 

A cat’s normal body temperature is between 37.7 and 39.2C or 100 to 102.5F. When a feline’s core temperature drops below the standard value, he or she is believed to have low body temperature. Low body temperature, or hypothermia, has initial signs of shivering as the body uses muscle contractions in an attempt to warm itself. If the feline cannot restore body temperature in time, the condition soon becomes severe, resulting in slow blood flow, a decreased heart rate and eventual death. Cats with short hair, or hairless cats, living in cold environments are the most susceptible to low body temperature. 

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Low Body Temperature Average Cost

From 588 quotes ranging from $200 - $6,000

Average Cost

$2,000

Symptoms of Low Body Temperature in Cats

Symptoms of hypothermia range from mild to severe, depending on the underlying cause and the amount of time the cat’s temperature has remained below normal. Low body temperature in cats can easily be detected by a cat owner through the following symptoms:

Mild Low Body Temperature

  • Lethargy
  • Listlessness
  • Cold skin 
  • Shivering

Moderate Low Body Temperature

  • Blue or pale gums
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Slow, shallow breath
  • Drowsiness

Severe Low Body Temperature

  • Coma 
  • Collapse
  • Death 
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Causes of Low Body Temperature in Cats

Environment-Associated Hypothermia 

The cause of low body temperature in cats is quite similar to the cause of hypothermia in humans. If your cat has become wet and is the temperature is cold, the feline’s temperature could easily drop. Cats that are left outside in the rain or snow without shelter can easily develop environment associated hypothermia. Cats with short hair or no hair are most susceptible to this type of hypothermia, as well as infants and elderly cats. 

Anesthesia-Associated Hypothermia

Cats which undergo lengthy surgeries that require heavy sedation are prone to anesthesia-related hypothermia. Anesthesia slows the heart rate, slows the breath, and blocks all nerve receptors, preventing the cat from moving or feeling. As anesthesia slows bodily functions, it also lowers the body’s core temperature and the cat could develop hypothermia if not properly monitored. 

Toxicity-Related Hypothermia 

Cats that ingest ivermectin (a parasite medication), paracetamol (acetaminophen), rat poisoning, or other toxic substances can experience blood loss and low heart rate, resulting in a low body temperature. 

Shock-Related Hypothermia

Septic shock related to an intestinal leakage or infection of the blood can cause a feline to go into shock and suffer a lower core temperature. 

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Diagnosis of Low Body Temperature in Cats

Low body temperature in cats can be easily diagnosed through the use of a rectal thermometer, which will give the veterinarian an estimate of your cat’s core temperature. A physical examination of the feline is also a very helpful diagnostic tool for the veterinarian as symptoms such as shivering, blue mucous membranes, and a weak appearance are clear warning signs of hypothermia. During this time, the veterinarian will ask you to talk about your cat’s current medications, behavior at home, and the chance of accidental ingestion of a poisonous substance. 

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Treatment of Low Body Temperature in Cats

The main treatment goal in a cat with low body temperature is to warm her up and increase her core body temperature. There are two treatment options for increasing the body temperature in a cat: passive external and active internal methods. 

Passive External

Passive external treatment is used in cats with mild to moderate hypothermia. The feline is warmed from the outside through the use of blankets, heating pads, and heated water bottles. Heating pads and heated water bottles will be covered by protective blankets to prevent burns to the cat’s skin. A hair dryer should NEVER be used to restore a cat’s core body temperature. 

Active Internal 

Active internal treatment is used in severe cases of hypothermia, as the veterinarian will warm the feline from the inside out. Intravenous fluids and heat ventilation are commonly used during active internal treatments, but your veterinarian may choose one or the other. 

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Recovery of Low Body Temperature in Cats

Low body temperature in cats can have a positive result if immediate treatment is sought by the pet owner. The longer a cat remains hypothermic, the greater the chance for permanent tissue damage to result as the blood flow was slowed for that length of time. Your veterinarian may ask to hospitalize the cat for a couple of days or for you to keep the cat isolated to the indoors to monitor her condition. 

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Low Body Temperature Average Cost

From 588 quotes ranging from $200 - $6,000

Average Cost

$2,000

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Low Body Temperature Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Domestic short hair

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17 Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Has Symptoms

Lethargy

I gave my old cat a bath today. I dried him off with a blow dryer. I tried my best to fully dry him and would switch from the warm setting to the cold setting sometimes because I didn’t want to burn him with the hot air. He sat next to the bathroom door trying to escape so I let him out after I thought he was dry enough. Still a little damp. I followed him to the next room to brush him and as I was brushing him he suddenly collapsed and started labored breathing. I got scared and brought him in my room to warm him, assuming he was cold. He seems ok now. Sorta lethargic. Should I be worried?

Aug. 31, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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1 Recommendations

I'm sorry to hear this. I would suspect he has an underlying medical issue such as heart or lung disease. He should see a vet for a check up right away. He may well need oxygen and medication.

Aug. 31, 2021

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domestic medium hair

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Frequent Urination

Bindi( grey torbie,small one) has been using the litter box every 20 minutes from 6:30pm EST. She is eating fine, drinking water fine and playing fine with Crackers( black tortie,elder)Stressor could be (guessing) elder one using Bindis litter box and not hiding the pee and poop. It's very cold and they get super cold, so they have sweaters at nights because house temperature drops upto 58 , I keep the sweaters on until it's atleast 65F.And I combed them both today.So this pee problem started after Crackers peed in Bindis box and I combed them. Sweater was removed at 6pm. Pic of pee on tissue

Dec. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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2 Recommendations

I'm sorry to hear this. We would consider cystitis which may well have been triggered by stress. Other potential causes would include bladder stones, urinary crystals, a bacterial infection etc. Ideally, she would be checked over by a vet and we would analyse her urine. She may well benefit from medicine such as anti inflammatories. At home, ensure their are 1.5 litter trays per cat and that they are kept as clean as possible. Encourage water intake by offering wet food and rain water. Hopefully she is feeling better very soon!

Dec. 28, 2020

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Low Body Temperature Average Cost

From 588 quotes ranging from $200 - $6,000

Average Cost

$2,000

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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