||We were having an early winter in
the Northwoods, as we sometimes
do. It was only October 28th and
a bitter wind was already blowing
and heavy, wet snow from Lake Superior had
covered the ground. Neither we, nor our clients,
nor their pets were prepared for it.
It came four days too early for one client,
Betty, who lived out in the country, religiously kept her cat, Dweezle, indoors
from November 1st until April so he would
not suffer the effects of the cold. The client
called us up the day before Halloween to
tell us that her cat had been caught outside
overnight in the storm, and Betty had found
him that morning huddled beside the garage
The bitter cold could
have caused any cat to experience hypothermia
- or worse. Since Betty lived so far from
the clinic and since the roads were still icy
and we knew Betty would not panic, we asked
her some questions about Dweezle's condition.
Was he shivering? Were his extremities
(legs, ears, tail) cold? Was he lethargic? Since
the cat was exhibiting all of these conditions,
we asked Betty to wrap him in warmed blankets
and to bring him right into the clinic. We
advised her not to rub or massage any area
of the cat's body. Often, an
instinct is to
in hot water,
but this is
thing to do. We strongly suspected
that at the very least, Dweezle was suffering
from hypothermia and possibly frostbite.
|Frostbite is a term used
to describe the damage to
tissue due to exposure to
severely cold temperatures.
Healthy animals can withstand
sub-zero temperatures if they
are dry and out of the wind;
therefore, frostbite is more
likely to occur if an animal has
no shelter or is injured. We
generally see frostbite more
often in cats than in dogs.
When Betty and Dweezle
came in, we were ready with warm
towels and blankets. We drew blood to check his glucose level, and started warm IV fluids. His glucose level was low, so we also added dextrose to his IV fluids. We also gave warm water enemas to warm his body core, not just his skin.
up and his body systems were working normally,
we kept him at the clinic so we could observe
any changes in the parts of his body most
likely to be frostbitten - the ears, the tail, and
the feet. Initially, areas damaged by frostbite
appear normal. Within 48 hours, though, the
damaged tissue will swell and become painful.
Within seven days, due to interruption of
the blood flow and nerve supply, the affected
tissue dries up and turns black, eventually
falling off twenty to thirty days later.
Minor cases of frostbite involve only ear
tips, whereas more extensive freezing may
cause the loss of tail, toes, and even limbs.
Death may result if the limbs are involved.
Dying tissue attracts bacteria, and severe,
life-threatening infections can result. Pain
relief medication and antibiotics are usually
Luckily, Dweezle survived unscathed
except for the tip of one ear, which makes
him look forever curious! He is now permanently
indoors - his owner has decided that
the outside may be too dangerous for her
furry companion and she wants to keep him
close to her and his past winter ordeal only a