Here are some cold weather tips to help keep your companion animal safe and warm during these cold winter months, courtesy of the ASPCA website. Below are the Top 10 Winter Skin and Paw Care Tips.

Keep your cat indoors! Outdoors, feline can freeze, become lost or stolen, injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs and wildlife.

Never let your dog off leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm, dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags and is microchipped!

Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk. Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.

Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs, and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If your puppy appears to be sensitive to the weather, you may opt to paper-train him inside. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.

Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. Visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for more information.

During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape.

Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s legs and stomach when he comes in out of the sleet, snow or ice. He can ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking his paws, and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.

Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.

Does your dog spend a lot of time engaged in outdoor activites? Visit our page on indoor activities to keep his mind and body engaged!

Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.

Top 10 Winter Skin and Paw Care Tips
Repeatedly coming out of the cold into the dry heat can cause itchy, flaking skin. Keep your home humidified and towel dry your pet as soon as he comes inside, paying special attention to his feet and in between the toes.

Bring a towel on long walks to clean off paws and help prevent irritation. After each walk, wash and dry your pet’s feet to remove ice, salt and chemicals-and check for cracks in paw pads or redness between the toes.

Dressing your pet in a sweater or coat will help to retain body heat and prevent skin from getting dry.

Massaging petroleum jelly into paw pads before going outside helps protect from salt and chemical agents. And moisturizing after a good toweling off helps to heal chapped paws.

Pets burn extra energy by trying to stay warm in wintertime, sometimes causing dehydration. Making sure she has plenty of water to drink will help keep her well-hydrated, and her skin less dry. If you are ever concerned about her weight, just take her in for a weight check and body scoring at your vet’s office!

Trim long-haired dogs to minimize the clinging of ice balls, salt crystals and de-incing chemicals that can dry on the skin. (Don’t neglect the hair between the toes!)

Bathe your pets as little as possible during cold spells. Washing too often can remove essential oils and increase the chance of developing dry, flaky skin. If your pooch must be bathed, ask you vet to recommend a moisturizing shampoo and/or rinse.

Booties help minimize contact with painful salt crystals, poisonous anti-freeze and chemical ice-melting agents. They can also help prevent sand and salt from getting lodged in between bare toes, causing irritation. Use pet-friendly ice melts whenever possible.

Brushing your pet regularly not only gets rid of dead hair, but also stimulates blood circulation, improving the skin’s overall condition.

Remember, if the weather’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet. Animal companions should remain indoors as much as possible during the winter months and never be left alone in vehicles when the temperature drops!