The days are shorter and the first snow has fallen, which means winter has come to Missouri! As people cozy up inside or plan festive winter outings, it’s tempting to think your pet’s fur will keep them warm while they’re outside. But remember – if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet!

The Humane Society of Missouri urges all pet owners to keep their four legged friend’s safety top of mind this winter with our lifesaving motto:

Throughout the season, remember these six tips to keep pets healthy, happy and protected from cold temperatures.

1. Bring pets inside: Just like people, cats and dogs are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite and should not be left outside in the cold for prolonged periods of time. Thick-coated dog breeds are more tolerant of cooler weather, but beware of freezing temperatures or wind chills that make it feel much colder.

2. Provide a cozy space: If dogs are going to be left outdoors, owners should provide a well-insulated, draft-free, appropriately sized doghouse with a sturdy, flexible covering to prevent icy winds from entering. Pay attention to your pets’ behavior, and if they begin to whine, shiver, or seem anxious or weak, bring them inside immediately, as they may be showing signs of hypothermia.

3. Press “paws” on pet injuries: Check your animals’ paws frequently for signs of cold-weather damage, such as a cracked paw pad or bleeding. Paw booties may be just the trick to prevent injuries from happening, and be sure to rinse and dry pets’ paws after being outside, as de-icing products like rock salt can irritate footpads. If you run with your dog, pay attention to cold paws and, if it gets too cold, leave your pup at home.

4. Layer up your pup: If your dog has a thinner coat or seems bothered by cooler temperatures, consider a sweater or a dog coat. But be careful – a wet sweater or coat can actually make your dog colder. A wet pet is a cold pet, so be sure to dry off pets (and their clothing!) to keep them comfortable.

5. Prevent poisoning: Make sure to clean up any antifreeze spills or buildup quickly. Pets may find it smells and tastes sweet, but it is poisonous and can cause serious health issues. If a pet accidentally ingests antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately.

6. Schedule a winter wellness exam: If your pet has not visited the veterinarian for his or her yearly wellness exam, now is the perfect opportunity. Cold weather may worsen certain medical conditions such as arthritis, so prep your pet for the winter season by visiting the vet!

To report an animal in distress, call the Humane Society of Missouri Animal Cruelty Hotline at (314) 647-4400.