Can Dogs Feel Wind Chill?

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Introduction

Right now around the country, it seems like the weather can't decide whether or not it's spring or winter. Not only does that affect our health, making the flu worse and giving you a cold, but it also can mess up your dog's schedules! 

For one thing, it makes it so we don't want to go outside super-often, since it's so gross out. For another, we don't want our puppers to get too cold! While they do have fur that protects them when it gets chillier outside, our doggos can feel cold, especially if there's a really low wind chill. 

While how much your woofer can feel a wind chill depends on their breed, all dogs will feel a bitter wind chill so long as it gets low enough. They're just like us - we all know how miserable it can feel when wind cuts through our jackets and coats, and it's the same for dogs! Luckily, just like us, there are ways we can keep them warm so they'll remain comfortable for the rest of this winter (whenever it decides to end) and into winters of the future!

Signs Your Dog is Feeling the Wind Chill

There's no particular temperature that will constitute whether it's too cold to go outside. Wind chill makes it even colder than the actual thermometer says, too, "as the speed of the wind increases, heat from a body is carried away faster." For example, if the thermometer says that it's 35 degrees, if there are 30 MPH winds, it actually feels like 5 degrees! That's not only too cold for us to go outside unprotected, but it's probably too cold for our dogs as well.

All dogs deal with the cold differently and can handle warmer or colder temperatures depending on their breed. That's not only because of the amount of fur that they have but also because of the size of their bodies, the amount of fat that they have, along with other factors. However, regardless of the breed, there are certain, common signs and behaviors that all dogs will exhibit when they get too chilly or it's too cold for them to go outside. Luckily, a lot of the symptoms are similar to the ones we show when we're too cold, so many should be familiar!

One of these signs is shivering or shaking. This is both our body's and our pup's body's attempt at keeping warm. The movement is an attempt to increase our internal body temperature through the muscles contracting and expanding in bursts. So, if you see your dog shaking, it's probably time to get them (and yourself) inside - they're definitely feeling the wind chill, and you probably are too!

Hypothermia can affect a dog if the wind chill is too low, too. Like humans, dogs who are suffering from hypothermia will actually be sleepier than normal. Hypothermic puppers will have decreased blood flow, and maybe even show troubled breathing. In an attempt to heal the body, your pup is going to try to rest as much as they can, "since being cold can slow a dog's body down as it causes weak or tired muscles." So, the lower the wind chill, the sleepier your dog will probably be!

You can also judge whether or not your dog is feeling the wind chill through their ears. While we wish that our woofer could talk to us and tell us that they're cold, we can determine if their body temperature is too low through their extremities. This includes their ears. 

So, a doggo that is feeling a low wind chill will have very cold ears or toes. Because the blood is pumping heavily to keep your dog's central body warm, it's not getting as much blood to the ears or feet. So, the lower the wind chill, the colder your woofer's ears will be! If they're freezing to the touch, get back inside, and try to get your dog warm as quickly as you can!

Body Language

Your dog may exhibit the following signs if they are getting too cold from the windchill:
  • Sleepiness
  • Body freezing
  • Weakness
  • Tail tucking
  • Whale eye
  • Panting
  • Cowering
  • Shaking
  • Dropped Ears
  • Whining
  • Whimpering
  • Raspy panting

Other Signs

Some other indicators that your pup is too cold include:
  • Trying to hide
  • Curling in on themselves
  • Sleepiness
  • Cold ears or feet
  • Avoiding touching the cold pavement
  • Raspy or labored breathing

The History Behind Cold Temperatures and Puppies

Some breeds have evolved to deal with the cold better than others. For example, dog breeds like Huskies, Samoyeds, and Bernese Mountain Dogs are native to really cold places like Alaska and the Siberian tundras. Some of them grew up running sleds, others as members of fishing crews in icy waters, and still more that have been trained to look for skiers or hikers that have been trapped as a result of an avalanche.

As a result, throughout the years, their coats have evolved to be thicker and their fat heavier and more easily stored, so they can stay warm when that wind chill cuts through their fur. 

Some even have more than one layer of their coat! These breeds include Tibetan Mastiffs, St. Bernards, Samoyeds, Newfies, Leonbergers, Eskimo Dogs, Huskies, and Icelandic Sheepdogs. And, while these dogs can deal with the cold better than other breeds, they all still have their limits, so we have to be careful - even with those who prefer the cold!

The Science Behind Wind Chill and Dogs

"Wind chill is how cold it actually feels on your skin when the wind is factored in." It basically is the "what does it feel like" temperature. "This is because the wind strips away the thin layer of warm air above your skin." So the stronger the wind, the more heat you lose, and the lower the wind chill temperature, the more easily you can contract frostbite or hypothermia. 

The same goes for our doggos! Lower wind chills are especially dangerous for both young puppers and senior pooches, ones that are sick or underweight, and ones that have been outside for too long or are already wet. So if any of these describe your dog, make sure to get your dog inside so they can remain happy and healthy!

How to React if You Think Your Dog is Too Cold:

  • First off, get inside! If your dog is shaking or trembling, the obvious first step is to get inside where the wind chill can't bother you or your dog. The less time they're outside, the less they'll be exposed to the elements, and the less likely it is that they'll develop hypothermia or other cold-related illnesses!
  • Warm water: if your dog is too cold and you're already inside, make sure to use warm (but not hot) water on a washcloth. So long as you don't rub the affected area and can keep it warm using continued contact, this warm water can help with frostbitten areas on your pupper.
  • Sometimes you may not be able to help your dog on your own. That means that it may be time to get them to the vet! It's better to be safe than sorry, so if you fear that your dog has hypothermia or frostbite, feel free to give your vet a visit.
  • Make your dog comfortable. Rest may be exactly what they need to feel better, so get them a nice, warm bed, and hang out with them as their body temperature returns to normal.

Safety Tips for Keeping Your Dog Healthy in the Cold:

  • Shoes: it may seem silly, but there are shoes designed out there specifically to keep your pup's paws from the cold pavement. Depending on how cold that pavement is, it can actually lead to frostbite on our pup's toes, so any barrier between them and the ground can help.
  • Jackets: similarly, and especially for doggos that can't deal with the cold as well, there are winter coats we can use that will act as another shield between the wind chill and our woofer's bodies. The more layers your doggo has, the warmer they'll remain!
  • Age: again, it's important to keep very old and very young puppies from the cold. Additionally, any dog that is already sick should not be exposed to too much cold or wind chill. So if your dog is old, young, or ill, make sure to limit their outside-time!