Diseases / List of Physical / Traumatic Diseases / Disease description:

Chilling / Hypothermia (with special reference to Waterfowl, Cranes, Hedgehogs, Bears, Lagomorphs and Ferrets)









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General and References

Disease Summary

Hypothermia and associated hypoglycaemia, mainly seen in juveniles, also in adults in cold conditions which have lost the insulative properties of feathers/fur and/or have low energy reserves.

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Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Hypothermia
  • Exposure

(See also: Starvation, Oiling, Drowning)

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Disease Type

 Physical / Traumatic

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Infectious/Non-Infectious Agent associated with the Disease

  • Exposure to wind. (B123.6.w6)
  • Direct contact with a cold surface. (B123.6.w6)
  • Restriction of exercise. (B123.6.w6)
  • Cold ambient temperatures. (B345.4.w4)
  • Anaesthetic/chemical restraint drugs can impair central thermoregulatory mechanisms, decrease metabolism and/or decrease endogenous heat production (e.g. prevent shivering). (B123.6.w6, B345.4.w4)
  • Loss of insulation - soaked coat, oiled fur or feathers, or malnourishment leading to a reduced subcutaneous fat layer. (B345.4.w4)
  • Inadequate circulation due to shock. (B345.4.w4)

In birds:

  • Usually a combination of low environmental temperature and wet down/plumage.
  • Waterproofing and insulation depends on structure and arrangement of down and feathers. Disarrangement of feathers, general soiling , or contamination with any substance which interferes with these functions (e.g. oil, detergent, soap) increases susceptibility to chilling.

(J2.12.w2, J7.30.w2, J40.31.w2, J58.106.w1)

In mammals:

  • Usually associated with low environmental temperatures, particularly in individuals which are small, in altricial young, and in association with wet/contaminated fur.
  • In altricial young, hypothermia will occur even in temperate conditions in the absence of the mother or an alternative heat source.

(V.w5B20.13.w10, B20.14.w11, B123.6.w6, B151)

Infective "Taxa"


Non-infective agents

Physical agents

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Disease Author

Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
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Major References / Reviews

Code and Title List

B9.6.w1, B11.40.w8, B13.46.w1, B15, B18, B20.14.w11, B37.x.w1, B41, B123.6.w6, B345.4.w4


.26.w1, B284.6.w6, B337.2.w2, B337.3.w3

D249.w13, D247.6.w6, J417.20.w1

B338.1.w1, B600.3.w3, B600.5.w5, B601.3.w3, B602.13.w13, B603.1.w1, B616.7.w7, B618.21.w21, J15.30.w2, J34.17.w1, J213.1.w1, J417.18.w1, P113.2005.w4

B338.26.w26, B627.8.w8, B631.18.w18
J195.11.w2, J513.7.w3

Other References

Code and Title List


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Clinical Characteristics and Pathology

Detailed Clinical and Pathological Characteristics


  • Feel cold to the touch, particularly on the extremities.
  • Body temperature is lower than normal for the species.
    • Below 35 C/95 F. (B345.4.w4)
  • Commonly will shiver. (B123.6.w6, B345.4.w4)
  • May show decreased movement.
  • May appear depressed, with slower than usual reactions and responses to stimuli. (B123.6.w6)
  • Young animals may huddle together.
  • Juveniles may not suckle.
  • Heart rate decreased, blood pressure decreased (pulse is difficult to feel). (B345.4.w4)
  • Below 32 C (89.6 F), the animal may be comatose and unable to respond to stimuli. (B123.6.w6)
  • Below 30 C (86 F), breathing becomes slow and shallow.
    • Additionally there may be "sludging" in the microcirculation, metabolic acidosis, ventricular fibrillation and disorders of coagulation. (B123.6.w6)

(B20.14.w11, B123.6.w6, B345.4.w4, V.w5)

Clinical Characteristics

  • When ambient temperature falls below the lower critical temperature (the ambient temperature below which the bird cannot thermoregulate solely by physical/behavioural means), the bird increases heat production by breakdown of ATP (which is restored by increased oxidation of fats, carbohydrates and proteins), together with peripheral vasoconstriction, piloerection and shivering. Increased oxygen use causes increased respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure and cardiac output. (P14.5.w7)
  • Reduced body temperature (can be below 100 F (37.7 C) (Normal body temperature for avian species averaged 104-106 F, 40-41 C). (P14.5.w7)
  • With mild hypothermia the affected individual is cold to the touch, depressed, and may be shivering. (B20.14.w11)
  • Mental depression, impaired coordination and lethargy; (P14.5.w7)
  • Progression to muscle rigidity; (P14.5.w7)
  • Finally decreased pupillary reflexes, sinus bradycardia, depressed respiratory rate, increased blood viscosity, therefore reduced cardiac output, hypotension; (P14.5.w7)
  • The affected individual may enter a coma and appear dead; (P14.5.w7)
  • Dysrhythmias, pre-ventricular contractions, ventricular tachycardia and cardiogenic shock may occur. (P14.5.w7)
  • Metabolic acidosis may occur due to lactic acid accumulation from shivering combined with decreased liver metabolism; respiratory acidosis may occur due to reduced respiratory rate and sludging of blood. (P14.5.w7)
  • Renal diuresis may occur due to reduced tubular reabsorption (resulting from vasoconstriction increasing blood volume). Later as cardiac output decreases, renal blood flow and glomerular filtration rate decrease. (P14.5.w7)
  • Hypoglycaemia may occur as energy reserves become exhausted. (B20.14.w11)
  • Additional effects include: reversible platelet dysfunction, ascites, predisposition to stress-associated diseases, possibly increased susceptibility to airborne pathogens since bronchial secretions become thick and tenacious, possible increased susceptibility to infections associated with impaired phagocytosis and granulocytopaenia. Coagulopathies, pulmonary oedema, pneumonia and cerebral oedema are possible complications may occur also. (P14.5.w7)



  • Huddling of brood, wet, bedraggled look; shivering may or may not be seen.
  • Severe chilling ducklings may be limp, limbs may be hyperextended, and the ducklings may appear dead.
  • Reduced body temperature.
  • May recover initially then develop gastro-intestinal or septicaemic disease a few days later.
  • Remarkable recoveries may be seen, particularly in very young waterfowl (B41, V.w5).

(J58.106.w1, B11.40.w8, B13.46.w1, B37.x.w1, P4.1990.w1).


  • Depression, lethargy, shivering, feel cold when touched.
  • Reduced body temperature: below 90F with severe hypothermia.

(J2.12.w2, B11.35.w3, B20.14.w11, P4.1990.w1, P14.5.w7).

  • Chilled crane chicks shiver and call. (B115.5.w3)
  • Wobbling, or standing and rocking. (B337.2.w2, B337.3.w3)
  • Feel cold to the touch (e.g. on the belly), with cold mucous membranes (e.g. gums). (B284.6.w6, B337.3.w3)
  • May appear only semi-conscious. (B337.3.w3)


  • May remain immobile and partially curled up for much of the time, with occasional stretching, crawling and sniffing with the eyes closed.
  • Cold to the touch.
  • Generally unwilling to take food.
  • May be apparently unconscious.
  • Body temperature may be as low as 17.5- 20C when examined initially compared to a normal temperature for hoglets of about 31.5-34.0C (See: West European hedgehog - Detailed Physiology (Literature Reports) - Temperature). 


  • Lethargy. (J195.11.w2)
  • Cubs may be cold to the touch and if very cold, feel rigid. (J23.11.w3, J23.11.w4)
  • Reduced rectal temperature; normal is 37.5 - 38.3 C (99.6 - 101.0 F). (B16.9.w9)
    • If the body temperature falls below 96 F and is still falling, warming is required. (D249.w10)
  • In domestic rabbits, a temperature at or below 38.0 C (100.4 F) is subnormal; normal is 38.5 - 40 C (101.3 - 104 F). (B600.3.w3)
  • Normal temperature is about 37.8 - 39.4 C (100 - 103 F) for most rabbits and hares; temperatures below this indicate chilling. (B338.1.w1)
  • Body temperature below 36.6 C (98 F); normal range is 37.7 - 38.8 C, 100-102 F. (J513.7.w3)
    • Moderate/severe hypothermia, core body temperature below 35 C (95 F). (J513.7.w3)
  • Hypothermic kits will be still, not active, and will feel cold when touched. (B232.11.w11)
    • Hypothermic kits will not suckle. (B338.26.w26, B627.8.w8)



Mortality / Morbidity

CRANES Chilling can be fatal to young crane chicks. (D437)
  • Mortality may be due to hypothermia and starvation, or predation, or blowfly strike (Myiasis). (J180.26.w1)


Pathological changes may be mild and non-specific:
  • Lungs - often congested.
  • Liver - often pale.
  • Stomach - Usually empty.
  • Body cavities - may contain excess clear fluid


  • Mild, non-specific changes:
  • Lungs - may be congested.
  • Liver - may be pale.
  • Gizzard - Usually empty.
  • Body cavity - may contain excess clear fluid
  • May be fluid in respiratory tract due to death by drowning (Drowning).

(J2.12.w2, B20.14.w11).


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Human Health Considerations


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Susceptibility / Transmission

General information on Susceptibility / Transmission

  • Individuals of species which enter water to search for food are susceptible to hypothermia. (B20.14.w11)
  • Young animals with poorly developed homeothermy are more susceptible to hypothermia. (B20.14.w11)
  • Altricial young which do not yet have their full plumage or pelage, and are not capable of maintaining their own body temperature without an external source of heat, are particularly susceptible to hypothermia.
  • Individuals which are debilitated for other reasons are more susceptible to hypothermia, particularly if they rely on a subcutaneous fat layer to maintain body temperature and this has become depleted.
  • Individuals in poor body condition or with a pre-existing disease state are more susceptible to hypothermia. (P14.5.w7)
  • Prolonged immobility predisposes to hypothermia. (B123.6.w6)
  • The very young and very old are more susceptible. (P14.5.w7)
  • CNS disorders, toxins and hypoglycaemia (all of which may impair hypothalamic function), hypothyroidism and adrenal insufficiency (which may suppress the body's response to cold stimulation), all predispose to hypothermia. (P14.5.w7)
  • Animals which are in shock quickly become hypothermic. (B123.6.w6)
  • Hypoxia predisposes to hypothermia. (B123.6.w6)
  • Use of vasodilatory drugs such as acepromazine, and halothane, predispose to hypothermia, (B123.6.w6)
  • Major trauma leads to immobilisation and compromised body surfaces; both tend to increase susceptibility to hypothermia. (P14.5.w7)
  • Individuals of species which rely on their plumage (feathers) or pelage (fur) for maintenance of body temperature are susceptible to hypothermia if the plumage or pelage becomes contaminated and/or wet, for example with oil contamination (see: Oiling). (B20.13.w10, B23.38.w2, B335.15.w15, B377.16.w16, B379.22.w22, P14.2.w1, P14.2.w5)
    • Oiled birds (see: Oiling) with disrupted feather structure show increased loss of heat to the environment in cold ambient temperatures than do birds with intact plumage. Oiled birds may also be unable to forage effectively. Therefore they rely on stored energy to maintain body temperature, and will be unable to maintain body temperature in cold ambient temperatures once body stores are used up. (J40.31.w2)
    • Petroleum exposure may also cause skin irritation/inflammation, with peripheral vasodilatation increasing heat loss. (P14.5.w7)
  • Direct contact with a cold operating table or cold ground in an anesthetised animal. increases heat loss and predisposes to hypothermia. 
  • Large areas of skin subjected to surgical preparation (shaving, application of cleansing solutions and alcohol preparations) increase heat loss.
  • Large open incisions during surgery increase heat loss.
  • Note: Small species are susceptible to loss of body temperature during general anaesthesia; the risk is increased if areas of the fur or feathers are removed and/or wetted during preparation for surgery.

(B20.13.w10, B20.14.w11, B36.42.w42, B123.6.w6, B151, B205.17.w17, V.w5)

  • Juveniles are most susceptible to chilling. Risk factors include wetting or oiling of down or feathers (reduces insulation), reduced parental care and brooding (e.g. due to disturbance) and poor nutritional status.
  • Young downy ducklings may lose 1-2C body temperature per minute on water at 15C (59F), but loss of feather structure due to dilute detergent results in much more rapid heat loss: loss of 6.2C per minute, with paralysis and death by drowning in just 2.5 minutes (J2.12.w2)
  • Adults may suffer from exposure/hypothermia if they lose their normal insulation, e.g. due to oiling (Oiling), detergents or wet feather (Wet-Feather in Waterfowl), particularly if they are on water: increase in metabolic rate to 400% of normal has been recorded in common eiders Somateria mollissima - Common eider contaminated with oil and maintained on water.
  • Experiments with adult mallard showed that lethal hypothermia and terminal paralysis and drowning may occur in adults exposed to detergents in less than an hour on water at minus 2C and less than four hours on water at 20C, compared to prolonged maintenance of body temperature (41C) on water at 0C (J2.12.w2).
  • If their insulation is not compromised, adult waterfowl are able to maintain body temperature by increasing metabolic rate while energy stores remain.
  • Risk of hypothermia during surgery, particularly related to: contact with cold surface, cooling effect of fluids used in skin preparation, and while internal tissues are exposed. Also following surgery if large areas of down/feathers have been removed in preparing the surgical site. (see: Treatment and Care - Surgery).
  • Risks of hypothermia are greater with smaller individuals.

(B14, B15, B18, B23.38.w2, P4.1990.w1).

  • In Anas platyrhynchos - Mallard experimentally oiled by being placed onto water to which oil had been added, thermal conductance increased, indicating reduced insulation from the plumage. With higher levels of oiling, the resting heat production increased by about 37.5%, from about 80 to 110 kcal/kg/day, and the lower critical temperature shifted from about 12 C to about 25 C. Oiling of scaup (Aythya - (Genus); Aythya marila or Aythya affinis not specified) showed similar changes in resting heat production and a similar shift in lower critical temperature. The increase in thermal conductance, i.e. decrease in insulation, in the scaup was greater than that of the mallard: about 50% high for the heavily oiled scaup. Oiled scaup "may survive in oily water for a relatively short time." (J30.51.w1)
  • Chicks are most susceptible to chilling while they are still downy, before they have their juvenile plumage. (D437)
  • Hoglets which have lost their mother (been abandoned, lost contact, or mother died), with associated loss of feeding, are particularly susceptible to hypothermia. (J180.26.w1)
    • Hoglets cannot control their own body temperature initially; thermoregulatory ability is poor in hoglets under two weeks old and is not fully functional until 27-31 days old. (J180.26.w1, B228.8.w8, B337.3.w3)
  • In adults hypothermia may be associated with falling into a pond or may be a sign of illness. (B337.3.w3)
  • Hypothermia is commonly present in hedgehogs casualties at the time of presentation. (B284.6.w6)
  • Bear cubs are susceptible to hypothermia until they grow a proper fur coat and become able to regulate their body temperature properly. (B338.24.w24, J23.9.w4)
  • Cubs are susceptible to chilling if abandoned, or not properly cared for, by their mother. (D247.6.w6, J23.9.w3, J23.11.w3, J23.11.w4)
  • Susceptibility is increased in bears under anaesthesia in cold environmental conditions. (D249.w13)
  • Young cubs (under about three months of age) being rehabilitated are at risk of getting chilled in water if large water troughs are provided which they can climb into. (J417.20.w1)
  • Lagomorphs are generally resistant to cold temperatures.
  • Young rabbits are more susceptible to hypothermia. (B601.3.w3)
    • Chilling may occur in neonates of domestic rabbits and other altricial rabbit species if they are not in a proper nest. Neonatal rabbit kits on a bare wire floor will become fatally hypothermic within a few hours. (B603.1.w1, B618.21.w21)
  • Chilling may occur in anaesthetised individuals, particularly if large areas are clipped and prepared for surgery. (B600.15.w15, B618.24.w24)
  • Rabbits recovering from anaesthesia, collapsed or lethargic are more likely to develop hypothermia. (B601.3.w3)
  • Ferrets are susceptible to hypothermia when collapsed. (B631.18.w18)
  • Hypothermia is probably most likely to occur as a complication during anaesthesia and surgery. (B232.18.w18, B629.13.w13, J513.7.w3)
  • Hypothermia may occur in kits due to poor mothering (B232.11.w11, B338.26.w26) which may occur because the jill is a poor mother (e.g. inexperienced jills) or is ill. (B338.26.w26)
  • Low night time temperatures, a draughty nest box and/or inadequate nesting material can lead to hypothermia of kits, as can failure of the jill to return a stray kit to the nest. (B652.7.w7)

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Disease has been reported in either the wild or in captivity in:

[N.B. Miscellaneous / Traumatic Diseases tend to be under-reported and the majority are likely to affect all species, given exposure to the related disease agents/factors.]
  • Swans (B9.6.w1).
  • Mallard Anas platyrhynchos and Khaki Campbell Anas platyrhynchos domesticus ducklings (experimental) (J58.106.w1).
  • Adult mallard Anas platyrhynchos experimentally exposed to cold (0C, 10C and 20C detergent-contaminated water (J2.12.w2).
  • Hedgehog hoglets (juveniles) Erinaceus europaeus in Denmark. (J180.26.w1)
  • Domestic rabbits. (B600.15.w15,B601.3.w3, B618.21.w21)
  • Ferrets. (B232.11.w11, B338.26.w26, J513.7.w3)

In cranes:

N.B. hypothermia is a common complication of Oiling.

Further information on Host species has only been incorporated for species groups for which a full Wildpro "Health and Management" module has been completed (i.e. for which a comprehensive literature review has been undertaken). Host species with further information available are listed below:

Host Species List



[N.B. Miscellaneous / Traumatic Diseases tend to be under-reported and the majority are likely to affect all species, given exposure to the related disease agents/factors.]

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Disease has been specifically reported in Free-ranging populations of:

  • Hedgehogs in the UK. (B337.3.w3)
  • Hedgehog hoglets (juveniles) Erinaceus europaeus in Denmark. (J180.26.w1)

In cranes:

[N.B. Miscellaneous / Traumatic Diseases tend to be under-reported and the majority are likely to affect all species, given exposure to the related disease agents/factors.]

N.B. hypothermia is a common complication of Oiling.

Further information on Host species has only been incorporated for species groups for which a full Wildpro "Health and Management" module has been completed (i.e. for which a comprehensive literature review has been undertaken). Host species with further information available are listed below:

Host Species List

[N.B. Miscellaneous / Traumatic Diseases tend to be under-reported and the majority are likely to affect all  species, given exposure to the related disease agents/factors.]

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General Information on Environmental Factors/Events and Seasonality

  • Chilling of downies may be associated with particularly cold and/or wet weather during the rearing season, for example a sudden downpour. (B13.46.w1, B15, B37.x.w1, B41).
  • Hypothermia in adults occurs particularly when water is contaminated with oil and/or detergent (J2.12.w2).
  • Sudden drops in environmental temperature may cause hypothermia. (B20.14.w11)
  • In ferret kits, associated with faulty nest box design (draughty), insufficient nesting materials and low ambient temperatures. (J195.11.w2)

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Regions / Countries where the Infectious Agent or Disease has been recorded

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Regions / Countries where the Infectious Agent or Disease has been recorded in Free-ranging populations

Hedgehogs Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog in Denmark. (J180.26.w1)

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General Investigation / Diagnosis

General Information on Investigation / Diagnosis

  • Clinical signs including shivering, huddling, wobbling gait.
  • May feel cold to the touch, with cold mucous membranes.
  • Body (rectal) temperature below normal for the species and age.

(B20.14.w11, V.w5)

  • Clinical signs: huddling of broods, sometimes shivering, lying still and limp, appearing dead with severe chilling. Depression / lethargy and shivering in adults.
  • Reduced body temperature: below 90 F with severe hypothermia (P4.1990.w1).
  • Clinical signs: chicks show shivering, calling (B115.5.w3); with severe chilling, chicks may be lying still and limp. (V.w5)
  • Clinical signs: cold hoglets, reduced movement, may be unwilling to suckle. (J180.26.w1); in adults and hoglets wobbling or standing and rocking. (B337.3.w3) Will feel cold to the touch. Low rectal temperature (normal about 35 C). (B284.6.w6)
  • Clinical signs: in kits, lack of movement, and feeling cold when touched. (B232.11.w11, J195.11.w2) Also failure to suckle. (B338.26.w26)
  • Body temperature below 36.6 C (98 F); normal range is 37.7 - 38.8 C, 100-102 F. (J513.7.w3)
    • Severe hypothermia, core body temperature below 35 C (95 F). (J513.7.w3)
Related Techniques
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Similar Diseases (Differential Diagnosis)

See also: Starvation, Oiling, Drowning, since hypothermia may be seen associated with these conditions.

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Treatment and Control

Specific Medical Treatment

WATERFOWL The use of subcutaneous fluids, antibiotics and steroids may prevent problems secondary to chilling. Prednisolone sodium succinate 2 mg/60 g downy (rapidly-metabolized steroid), every 15 minutes during the warming process has been suggested to reduce gastro-intestinal and septicaemic disease in apparently-recovered downies (B13.46.w1, B37.x.w1).
Related Techniques
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General Nursing and Surgical Techniques

Treatment needs to restore normothermia, prevent further loss of heat, support the vital organs, restore fluid volume, maintain the animal's airway and also address any secondary problems. (P14.5.w7)

Note: The body core must be warmed before the extremities are warmed. (P14.5.w7)

  • Restoration of body temperature: Warm gradually to about 24-30 C (mammals) or 32-38 C (birds). (B20.14.w11)
    • Small animals can be rubbed dry (if they are wet) and body heat used (place the animal inside your clothes, next to your skin until more effective warming methods are available). (B123.6.w6, B345.4.w4, V.w5)
    • Warm using containers of warm water placed against the animal, blankets, hand warmers, electric heat pads or heat lamps, as available. (B345.4.w4, V.w5)
    • Mild hypothermia: Passive rewarming with blankets, hot water bottles, brooder lamps or heat lamps may be sufficient. (P14.5.w7)
    • Moderate hypothermia: warm with heat sources such as hot water bottles or heat pads, placed adjacent to the ventrolateral thorax and NOT in direct contact with the skin. Radiant heaters such as heat lamps should be placed at a safe distance (depends on the wattage). (P14.5.w7)
    • Severe hypothermia:
      • Immersion in a warm water bath (40.5 - 45.5 C, i.e. 105-114 F) is the most effective way of warming the animal. Keep the head out of water and ruffle the fur or feathers to make sure the warmth is reaching the skin. (B123.6.w6, P14.5.w7)
        • For large animals where full immersion is not possible, spray with warm water or wrap in warm blankets and massage the body surface. (B123.6.w6)
        • Once the animal is warm, dry with warm air using a hand-held hair drier. (B123.6.w6)
          • Note: For conscious wild animals, use of a drying pen, away from human contact, is less stressful than drying with a hand-held drier. See: Cleaning Oiled Wildlife - Drying Birds.
          • Do not wet the animal with warm water unless a means of drying it thoroughly is also available. (B345.4.w4)
      • Warming in a stream of warm air or warm water may be possible. (P14.5.w7)
      • Warm water enemas can be used. (B123.6.w6)
    • Maintain in an ambient temperature of about 19 to 21 C after rewarming. (B11.35.w3)
    • For wild animals which have been immobilised, do not allow recovery and release until the animal's body temperature is back to above 38 C/100 F. (B345.4.w4)
  • Fluids therapy:
    • Give warm intravenous fluids (normal saline). (B123.6.w6)
      • In severely hypothermic individuals it may be necessary to expose a vein surgically (cut-down) as the decreased blood pressure associated with hypothermia may make it difficult to locate the veins. (B123.6.w6)
    • Give birds warm fluids by intravenous or intraosseous injection, up to 3% of body weight at one time by bolus injection, repeated every three to four hours if required. (P14.5.w7)
    • If the bird is conscious and maintaining head carriage oral rehydration can be given; fluids should be supplemented with dextrose and/or a readily digested food. (P14.5.w7)
    • If conscious, provide dextrose in water, and easily digestible food (offer little and often). (B20.14.w11)
  • Monitor respiration and maintain an airway:
    • Intubation and ventilation with warm oxygen has been suggested if hypoventilation (les than four to ten breaths per minute) develops. (P14.5.w7)
  • If mildly chilled, the bird will warm up if given access to a heat source e.g. an infra-red lamp.
  • Birds which have become more severely wet and chilled may be warmed and dried, for example by careful use of a hair dryer, or by placing in a stream of warm air from a fan heater.
  • Individuals my also be warmed by washing gently in clean water at 37.5C (100F).
  • Hot water bottles may be used with care - alongside the ventrolateral thorax, not in direct contact with skin (e.g. wrap a hot water bottle in a towel first).
  • Downies may be rubbed dry and held against a person's body (direct skin contact) initially while other arrangements for warming are being made. (V.w5)
  • Monitor temperature e.g. with cloacal thermometer.
  • Once warm, tube feed with a prepared formula such as Emeraid I, (Lafeber, Odell, Illinois, USA) - e.g. 0.25-0.3 mL per duckling, depending on size.
  • Maintain in an ambient temperature of about 19 to 21 C after rewarming. (B11.35.w3)

(J2.12.w2, J58.106.w1, B11.35.w3, B13.46.w1, B37.x.w1, B123, P14.5.w7, V.w5)

  • Provide warmth. (V.w5)
  • Provide warmth using a heat lamp, heat pad, hot water bottle, heated cage etc. (B284.6.w6, B337.3.w3)
    • Warm gradually: avoid overheating the casualty or heating it too quickly. (B337.3.w3)
    • If the individual is mobile, provide a heat gradient so that it can choose the most comfortable temperature. (B337.3.w3)
BEARS Adult bears
  • Increase the ambient temperature (in the field, this can be achieved by lighting a fire. (D249.w13)
  • Place non-toxic chemical heating pads into the bear's axillae. (D249.w13)


  • Warm in a hot water bath if necessary. (J23.13.w15)
  • Place in a warm incubator. (B338.24.w24, J23.13.w15) at 30-32 C (86-88 F)
  • Surround the cub with clean latex gloves filled with warm water, or warmed 250 ml saline bags. Replace with fresh warm fluid-filled bags as they become cool. (B338.24.w24)
  • Provide supplemental heat to individuals recovering from surgery, collapsed individuals, and lethargic individuals, until they are able to resume normal thermoregulation. (B600.5.w5, B601.3.w3, J15.30.w2)
    • Take care not to overheat the animal, remembering that rabbits are susceptible to hyperthermia (Hyperthermia - Sunstroke - Heatstroke). (B600.5.w5, J15.30.w2)
    • Warmed intravenous fluids can be used. (J15.23.w6)
    • Temperature-controlled incubators can be used. (J15.23.w6)
    • Heat lamps can be used, with care. (J15.23.w6)

Rabbit kits:

  • Kits which have become chilled (e.g. outside the nest) should be placed in a box in a warm place. (B616.7.w7)
  • If the neonate has a body temperature reduced by 3 - 4 C (5 - 6 F), re-warm by immersing in warm water (37.8 C/100 F) keeping its head out of the water and massage it gently, for up to five minutes. Then take it out of the water and keep it warming under a heat lamp of drier. (B338.1.w1, J417.18.w1)
    • Warming may make any dehydration of the neonate worse. After initial warming, give fluids. (B602.13.w13, B338.1.w1)
      • Fluids should be isothermic, i.e. warmed to 37.8 C (100 F). (B602.13.w13)
      • Lactated Ringer's solution is appropriate. (B602.13.w13, B338.1.w1)

Ferret kits

  • Give a few drops of glucose solution orally (B232.11.w11, B338.26.w26, B652.7.w7, J195.11.w2) once it has revived sufficiently to take the fluid. (B652.7.w7)
    • 1 mL of 10% glucose solution. (J195.11.w2)
  • Warm the kits (J195.11.w2) using human body heat (B232.11.w11, B652.7.w7) or a heating pad; avoid warming too quickly. (B232.11.w11)
    • Kits can also be held in warm water to warm them. (B338.26.w26)
    • A well-padded hot water bottle can be used. (B652.7.w7)
  • Warm fluids can be given subcutaneously. (B232.11.w11) 
    • 0.5 - 1.0 mL warm fluids subcutaneously. (B338.26.w26)
  • After warming, foster or replace with the jill, as appropriate. (B232.11.w11)
Related Techniques
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Preventative Measures

Vaccination --
Prophylactic Treatment --
Related Techniques
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Environmental and Population Control Measures

General Environment Changes, Cleaning and Disinfection
  • Ensure adequate heating is provided in accommodation, particularly for debilitated individuals. (V.w5, B284.2.w2)

    • For mobile casualties provide a temperature gradient so that the individual can choose the place at which it feel most comfortable. (V.w5)

    • The thermoneutral range (in which no additional energy must be expended purely in order to maintain body temperature) is 15-24 C for most mammals, 15-25 C for birds of about 500 g to 1 kg, 20-30 C for small birds of about 50-500g and 25-35 C for very small birds of 5-50 g. (B284.2.w2)

  • In the field, place an insulating pad between an immobilised animal and the cold ground, and cover it or wrap it in a rug or space blanket. (V.w5)

  • Use a suitable heat pad during general anaesthesia for small species/individuals, minimise removal of fur/feathers and wetting of the skin, particularly with alcohol, and if possible wrap the patient in foil or bubble wrap to reduce heat loss. (B205.17.w17)

  • Heating pads with circulating water are preferable to avoid hypothermia and are less likely to become too hot than are electric pads or blankets. (B123.6.w6)

  • Ensure proper heating and brooding of young birds. Use wire lids on brooder boxes to prevent downies jumping out and becoming chilled. Provide a temperature gradient in brooder boxes, with a temperature under the heat lamp of 37.2 C (99 F) initially, which may be reduced gradually to 21.1C (70 C) by about three weeks old. Check brooder box temperatures and increase heating if required on cold nights. Avoid drafts.
  • Downies are less likely to become soaked and then chilled if reared with restricted access to water e.g. providing only a shallow dish with pebbles in), but this is not suitable for species such as the fish-eating ducks and the stifftails Oxyura spp..

(See: Rearing of Birds).

  • Avoid cross-fostering between species with different habits, e.g. cygnets of Cygnus cygnus - Whooper swan onto adults of Cygnus olor - Mute swan, as the whooper cygnets will move to land to be brooded, while the foster parent (a species which frequently broods its cygnets on its back on the water) may stay on the water.
  • Ensure adults have access to shelter in winter, and ample food.
  • Ensure oiled birds are kept in warm conditions until they have been washed and regained their normal insulation (See: Oiling).

(P3.1987.w1, B13.46.w1, B18, B37.x.w1, V.w5).

CRANES Ensure proper heating and brooding of young chicks. (V.w5)
  • Ensure adequate heating is provided in accommodation. (B337.2.w2, B337.3.w3)
    • For mobile casualties provide a temperature gradient so that the individual can choose the place at which it feel most comfortable. (B337.3.w3)
  • If bears are chemically immobilised outside in low ambient temperatures, wrap the bear in a space blanket or place it on an insulating pad. (D249.w13)
  • During surgery in cold conditions, place hot water bottles along the sides of the bear. (V.w89, V.w90)
  • During hand-rearing, keep young cubs, which are not yet properly haired and able to thermoregulate, in a warm, constant temperature-controlled environment, such as an incubator. (B338.24.w24, J23.13.w15)
    • Take care to keep young cubs warm even when they are out of the incubator during feeding and toileting. (B338.24.w24)
  • For disinfection of the surgical field, preferably use warmed, non-volatile disinfectant fluids; avoid use of large quantities of spirit. (B600.15.w15, B618.24.w24)
  • During surgery, ensure the rabbit is on an insulating or heated surface. (B618.24.w24)
  • Warm any intravenous fluids given. (J15.30.w2, J213.1.w1, P113.2005.w4)
  • If the abdominal or thoracic contents are exposed for any length of time, steps must be taken to prevent development of hypothermia and dehydration. (J34.17.w1)
    • Heat may be provided by circulating hot water blankets, hot water bottles or heat lamps. (J34.17.w1)
    • During abdominal surgery, periodic irrigation of the abdominal cavity with warm sterile isotonic solution may be helpful. (J34.17.w1)
  •  Provide supplemental heat to individuals recovering from surgery, collapsed individuals, and lethargic individuals, until they are able to resume normal thermoregulation. (B600.5.w5, B601.3.w3, J15.30.w2)
  • Hand-reared rabbit kits should be kept warm and dry. Provide bedding material into which they can burrow, such as hay and rabbit fur, a towel or shredded tissue paper, and keep them in a warm environment. (B284.10.w10, B338.1.w1, B606.6.w6) See: Rearing of Mammals - Hand-rearing
  • If a collapsed ferret is to be transported (e.g. to a veterinary clinic) it should be wrapped in a towel and placed on a hot water bottle or hand warmer during the journey. (B631.18.w18)
  • Peri-surgical care:
    • The area of fur clipped for surgery should be minimised, alcohol rinses avoided during aseptic preparation, and external heat sources should be available. (B631.23.w23)
    • Core body temperature should be monitored during surgery. (B629.13.w13, B631.23.w23)
    • During surgery, a heat source should be used under the ferret and if necessary also an overhead heat lamp. (J29.6.w3)
    • Intravenous fluids and and fluids used for flushing (e.g. in the abdomen) should be warmed prior to use. (J29.6.w3)
  • Kits:
Population Control Measures --
Isolation, Quarantine and Screening --
Related Techniques
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