GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – The winter months can take a toll on your pets.

While it may be warm now, the Humane Society wants you to make sure you are keeping your pet’s safety in mind.

Freezing rain, sleet and snow are all circumstances we may encounter during the winter months. Oftentimes, pets are the last to escape those weather conditions.

“You know, they can get frostbite just like we can,” explained Rachel Delport, Chief Executive Officer of the Greenville Humane Society.

That is one reason why the Humane Society is sharing ways you can help your four-legged friends when the temperature drops.

“Make sure you are, you know, as a pet owner, providing them with all the resources that you would want for them to be happy and healthy,” said Delport.

First, the Humane Society advises you to keep your pets sheltered. That includes making sure there is a warm space off of the cold ground, with some sort of covering.

According to the organization, just because they have fur doesn’t mean they can withstand cold temperatures.

“If your pet lives outside full time, make sure that your pet has the proper accommodations,” said Julia Brunelle, Senior Communications Manager at the Greenville Humane Society. “You want to make sure that your dog house is the right size. If you have a dog that spends a lot of time in that shelter and that is what they are relying on and there is too much space in there, then that can actually let all of the cold air in.”

According to the Humane Society, it is recommended that your pets have a draft-free shelter large enough to stand and turn around in, yet small enough to retain body heat. The organization says to have a layer of straw or other bedding material to help insulate them against the cold.

If your pet lives outdoors, make sure it has access to fresh water and that it is not frozen.

The Humane Society also recommends being aware of what is on the ground. When weather conditions worsen, local emergency management uses salt and de-icers to treat the roads and walkways.

“Make sure too that your animal is not walking in it. If they have any contact, make sure you wash their paws. You don’t want them to ingest that because it could make them very sick and it can help break up those little paws and make it very uncomfortable for them,” said Delport.

Just in case your pet escapes from your home, make sure it is microchipped.

“If it’s cold or it snows, they have a hard time being able to track and find their way back, so keep that in mind,” Delport said.

Regardless of whether your pet lives indoors or out, the Humane Society encourages you to keep safety in mind.

“I certainly would hope that when people are looking at their animal situation they are doing for them what they would do for themselves,” said Brunelle.

Always remember, if you are cold, then your pet is cold too.

Here is additional advice from the American Humane Society on ways to keep your pets safe:

  • When you bathe your dogs in cold weather, make sure they are completely dry before taking them outside for a romp or walk.
  • When walking your dogs during bad weather, keep them on leash. It’s easier for a dog to become lost in winter storm conditions — more dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season.
  • Leash your pets if you have frozen ponds, lakes or rivers nearby, as loose pets can break through ice and quickly succumb to hypothermia before trained ice-rescue personnel can arrive. Never try an ice rescue of a pet yourself — leave that to trained professionals.
  • When you are working on housebreaking your new puppy, remember that puppies are more susceptible to cold than are adult dogs. In cold conditions or bad weather, you may need to opt for paper training your new pet rather than taking the pup outside.
  • Keep your cats indoors. Cats can freeze in cold weather without shelter. Sometimes cats left outdoors in cold weather seek shelter and heat under the hoods of automobiles and are injured or killed when the ignition is turned on. Banging loudly on the hood of your car a few times before starting the engine will help avoid a tragic situation. (This is true for wild animals in cold weather as well).
  • When taking your pets out for a bathroom break, stay with them. If it’s too cold for you to stand outside, it is probably also too cold for your pets.
  • If your pet is outside during cold weather:
    • Remember that staying warm requires extra calories. Outdoor animals typically need more calories in the winter, so feed them accordingly when the temperature drops. Talk to your veterinarian for advice on proper diet.