While the snowy, blistering cold month of January brings the new year to pet households around the world, its harsh weather is not as welcoming. Snow tires, closed schools and weather warnings are slowly coming back into fashion as we charge headfirst into the freezing winter season, which means that safety for every member of your family is the priority. Cozy mittens and double-layered socks will keep the humans nice and warm, but what about our fur covered friends? How do we keep our pets safe from the harsh winds and slippery sidewalks?

As obvious as it sounds, pets need shelter just like humans do. Under no circumstances should pets be left outdoors on their own, even if they tend to roam outside in warmer seasons. Taking your pets on walks is encouraged for bathroom breaks and exercise, but keep in mind how the windchill may affect your small friend. Have you ever seen a dog wearing a dog coat? If you have a short-haired dog you would like to take outside this winter, it is recommended to bundle them up in some warmer gear.

If you have an outdoor cat, consider adding a doggie door to your house so he/she can get inside when they are cold. Without access to a house, cats will often seek warmth in dangerous places, such as your car’s engine. Make sure to bang on your vehicle’s hood or honk the horn before starting the engine to alert any animals and give them a chance to leave.

Shoveling your driveway or outdoor pathways is critical to keeping your family safe this winter, two-legged as well as four. Salt is usually a common de-icer, however it is possible to get stuck in your pet’s paws, where it can burn. So instead, simply shovel away the debris that has formed from last night’s snowfall, as well as trimming your pet’s nails because shorter nails provide better traction in slippery conditions. Dogs also tend to lick their paws occasionally on or after a walk, so the rock salt used on public sidewalks and roads may get them sick. Consider investing in “booties”, snow protector boots made for dogs and some cats. These will also prevent possible scraps and cuts on sensitive paws from the sharp ice.

Do you use antifreeze chemicals on your vehicle or home? These highly deadly poisons have a sweet taste that may attract animals. Wipe up any antifreeze spills and keep household chemicals in an out of reach place in your home from curious pets. Coolants made with propylene glycol are less toxic to pets, however it is recommended to just not use any antifreeze products or have them in your home.

Keep your furry friends warm and cozy by the fireplace this winter, with a small side of kibble.