With falling temperatures, the risk of outdoor cats getting frostbite increases.
It is usually the cat’s extremities (ears, paws, tip of the tail, nose and scrotum) that are affected, resulting in tissue death.
All cats can be affected, but young, elderly and poorly furred animals must be helped to cope with the cold in order not to get injured. It is individual how low temperature each cat can handle.
A combination of cold, wind and moisture causes the small blood vessels to constrict for a longer period of time.
This in conjunction with additional cooling on the thin skin found in the cat’s extremities, causes the water in the tissue to freeze (forms ice crystals) which destroys the cells’ structure and leads to tissue death. In addition to local cold injuries, the cat can also suffer from colds, also called hypothermia.
The symptoms can vary depending on the stage. From the beginning, white, hard and cold skin is seen and blisters may occur. There is a reduced feeling in the area. After a few days, the animal feels a stabbing pain, numbness may occur and the affected area is clearly demarcated against healthy skin. The skin can in some parts be perceived as red or blue in color.
After a while, the skin turns black as a sign of tissue death (necrosis). Tissue-dead parts such as the tip of the tail or a toe eventually fall off.
The affected skin is very sensitive to further damage, so avoid massaging or pressing on the tissue. Feel free to warm the cat in a so-called passive way, ie through body heat from humans or blankets, lukewarm drinks and preferably some food that provides energy.
Feel free to carry the cat if it has frostbite on its paws. Protect from the wind and immediately take the animal to a veterinary clinic for further treatment.
At the clinic, the cat is slowly warmed up by a hot drip and receives pain relief and food. The patient is followed very closely over several weeks. Permanent muscle damage is sometimes seen, in some cases necrotized areas can be removed surgically.
It is important to avoid exposing the animal to weather conditions that may cause cold damage and it is important to slowly get used to the colder climate. The animal should move as much as possible to keep the circulation going.
Even in a car or picnic area, damage can occur and the risk of cooling down is great. A warm and insulated sleeping area, heating possibilities and access to energy-giving food and lukewarm water are therefore extremely important.