How to keep your pets safe in dangerously cold weather

CHICAGO (WLS) -- With dangerous cold forecast this week, PAWS Chicago is sharing the following tips to help you keep your pets safe:

1) Keep Pets Inside and Limit Time Outdoors

Dogs and cats are vulnerable to hypothermia (low body temperature) and frostbite (frozen body parts) when exposed to cold temperatures for too long. If you notice your pet is shivering, that is a clear sign that he is cold. Each pet is different, but smaller dogs and those with little or no hair need special attention as they are most vulnerable. If you have an outdoor cat, bring him inside! Remember, if it's too cold for you, it's probably too cold for your pet, so keep your animals inside. We recommend keeping walks short.

2) Bundle Up!
Pet coats and sweaters are more than fashionable - they also keep your pet warm in cold temperatures. Dog booties can also help protect paws and keep them warm.

3) Prep Paws for the Outdoors
Clip long fur between the toes and pads to prevent uncomfortable ice balls from forming while walking in the snow.
When returning, wipe snow and ice off your dog's belly, legs, and especially paws with a moist rag. (Removes salt or other harmful chemicals that could be ingested when licking.)

WATCH: Tips to help protect your pets from dangerous cold
EMBED More News Videos

Pets need protection from the cold, just like humans. Here are some tips to protect your furry friends.

4) Avoid Rock Salt
Salt de-icer's are toxic (can be ingested by licking paws) and irritating.
If you don't have dog booties, apply petroleum jelly or commercially-available organic wax balms for dogs to the paw pads for protection
Look for salt-free ice melters that are safe for pets to walk on.

5) Never Leave Pets Alone in a Car
Once a car's ignition has been turned off, cold temperatures can quickly infiltrate the vehicle, creating a freezer-like environment.
During the winter, limit travel with your pet to only that which is necessary. To avoid frostbite or hypothermia, bring pets along when you leave the vehicle - even for quick stops.

6) Avoid Ice-Covered Bodies of Water
Keep your pet away from frozen ponds, lakes or other bodies of water that may not be able to support his weight.

7) Avoid Anti-Freeze
Spilled car antifreeze containing the substance ethylene glycol is deadly for your pets. Its sweet smell and taste attracts pets.

8) Be Aware of Heat-Seeking Cats
Outdoor cats often look for heat by crawling under the hoods of cars. Before starting your car in the cold weather, bang on the hood or fender of the car or honk the horn a few times before turning on the engine.

9) Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm
Dogs frequently lose their scent in snow and ice and easily become lost. They may panic in a snowstorm and run away. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season. Always make sure your pet has a collar with ID tag, and is microchipped.

10) Warm Place to Sleep
Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep far away from all drafts and off the floor, such as in a dog or cat bed or basket with a warm blanket or pillow in it.

RELATED: Winter Wellness for Pets
EMBED More News Videos

Here's how to keep your pets safe and healthy in winter weather.

Signs of Hypothermia in Pets:
Violent shivering, followed by listlessness
Problems breathing
Weak pulse
Muscle stiffness
Lack of appetite

What to do if You Suspect Hypothermia:
Triage your pet by:
Wrapping him in a warm blanket or coat.
Bring him into a warm room.
Placing warm, towel-wrapped water bottles against your pet's abdomen or at her armpits and chest, then wrap her in a blanket.
Do not use hair dryers, heating pads, or electric blankets to warm up a hypothermic pet as this may result in burns or compromised circulation to vital organs.

Call your veterinarian immediately!

Signs of Frostbite in Pets:
Tips of ears and tail have red- or gray-tinged skin
Skin often appears pale, gray, or blue at first and red/puffy later
Pain in ears, tail, or paws when touched
Skin that stays cold
Shriveled skin
For cats: paws, tail, and ears are most vulnerable
For dogs: tail, ears, foot pads, and scrotum are most vulnerable

What to do if You Suspect Frostbite:
Triage your pet by:
Never rub or massage affected areas as this will worsen the damage
Triage your pet by:
Gently warming the afflicted areas by immersing them in warm (not hot) water or gently covering them with warm, moist towels for at least 20 minutes
Handle affected areas gently
Do not use hair dryers, heating pads, or electric blankets to warm up a hypothermic pet as this may result in burns
Call your veterinarian immediately
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.