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.
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
- Cold skin
Moderate Low Body Temperature
- Blue or pale gums
- Slow heartbeat
- Slow, shallow breath
Severe Low Body Temperature
Causes of Low Body Temperature in Cats
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
Low Body Temperature Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
my one month old persian cross kitten temperature is 96. her stool is black in colour
The normal rectal temperature in cats is between 100-102.5°F; there are a few causes for low body temperature in cats, usually due to a cold environment but with black stools we may suspect that there is some gastrointestinal bleeding leading to the presence of digested blood in the stool. The possible causes of the symptoms are poisoning (from poisons or reaction to medications) or due to shock caused by internal bleeding which would explain the black stool; given Buzzo’s age I would recommend visiting your Veterinarian as soon as possible especially if there are signs of anaemia (white or pale gums). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
i have new born persian kitten they are so healthy bat they die one bye one bcause of low temperature what do i have me to do?
Add a comment to buzzo 's experience
Was this experience helpful?
i ahve a 7 year old long hair male cat..hes inside only cat.but his ears have been bothering him and hes scratched at it.so until i could take him to vet i read online about using all natural coconut oil.so i did but didnt seem to help.and i checked his temp and its alittle low.like one time it was 97.6 then next day 98.5.its been alittle chilly in the mornings here but not real bad.maybe 47 in the mornigs.otherwise hes fine eats good and everything..so is this temp due to his ear maybe infected?
I am concerned about Rusty’s body temperature, usually when the temperature is below 100F we classify that as being hypothermia; firstly just to note I have seen occasions (may be three times) when owners have measured their loved ones temperature and it is either too low or too high only to come to the Veterinary clinic and the temperature to be normal due to an inaccurate home thermometer. Usually the causes of low body temperature in cats are due to environment if it is persistently cold, lack of thermoregulation, shock or poisoning; the itching of the ears may be due to ear infection, parasites or allergens. I would recommend visiting your Veterinarian to check his ears and to have a general examination to see if the cause of the low body temperature is just environmental or something more sinister. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Add a comment to rusty's experience
Was this experience helpful?