Your thermometer may show one temperature, but your body tells you it's much colder. That's the wind chill factor at work.
Unfortunately, many people underestimate how cold the wind can make their pets feel. As the speed of the wind increases, heat from a body is carried away faster. The thermometer may read 35 degrees Fahrenheit, but you and your pet may experience subzero temperatures, leading to frostbite or hypothermia, which is the drastic loss of body heat from overexposure. Hypothermia can occur in temperatures that you may not even think of as dangerous, such as above 40 F, especially if a pet is wet.
Interestingly, the wind chill factor only affects living things. It doesn't make water freeze any faster. In practical terms, this means that if your antifreeze is good to 10 F, and the actual air temperature is 20 F, your car should be all right, even if the wind chill makes it feel like it is minus 10 F.
The following is a brief guide to relative wind speed and its effect on the temperature. Your local weather forecast will often include the actual temperature and the wind chill factor. If your pet lives primarily outdoors, it is important to be aware of the temperature plus the wind chill factor. Bring him in if you expect a windy night, even if the temperature appears to be relatively comfortable. Taking preventive action is your best defense against having to deal with extreme cold-weather conditions and can reduce the risk of weather-related health problems for both you and your pet.
Actual temperature: 35 F With 10 mph winds, feels like: 22 F
With 20 mph winds, feels like: 11 F
With 30 mph winds, feels like: 5 F
Actual temperature: 25 F
With 10 mph winds, feels like: 16 F
With 20 mph winds, feels like: 4 F
With 30 mph winds, feels like: minus 2 F
Actual temperature: 20 F
With 10 mph winds, feels like: 3 F
With 20 mph winds, feels like: minus 10 F
With 30 mph winds, feels like: minus 17 F
For those interested in the actual formula, here it is: Wind chill temperature = 35.74 + 0.6215T - 35.75V (0.16) + 0.4275TV(0.16)
In the formula, V is in the wind speed in statute miles per hour, and T is the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.
Note: In the formula, means the following term is an exponent (i.e. 10(0.5 ) means 10 to the 0.5 power, or the square root of V), - means to subtract, + means to add. A letter next to a number means to multiply that quantity represented by the letter by the number. The standard rules of algebra apply.
Who Is at Risk
Cold-related trauma or illness increases, depending on a number of factors. These include:
Age of your pet. Puppies and kittens less than 6 months are at greater risk. Geriatric pets are also at higher risk.
Sick, underweight pets or those on medications. Pets with poor circulation or diabetes also face increased risk.
Prolonged exposure or being wet.
Previous cold-related injuries, such as frostbite.