SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- With temperatures struggling to climb above freezing, animal lovers are urging pet owners to take extra precautions for their pets.
PHOTO GALLERY/BLOG: Winter hiking with dogs
"It is really cold, so we are out for short periods with our dogs," stated Julie Bernier, who runs Dances with Dogs Day School for Pups. Bernier says it is important to give your dog a chance to get some exercise and fresh air even when the weather is brutally cold, but that you need to pay close attention to them to gauge how they are handling the cold.
"I say let your dog be your guide. If your dog is standing and not wanting to go forward, is lifting a paw, that is when I know we are going to bring our pack inside," she explained.
Bernier says it is a good idea to outfit your dog with a coat that is waterproof on the outside and insulated on the inside and covers their trunk. She also recommends coats that have reflective tape on them to help protect them at night.
"They are very vulnerable in terms of their paws," said Bernier. "We do have to be concerned about the chemicals that their little paw pads are subjected to."
Another thing to keep in mind is how snow, ice, salt and sand can impact your pet's feet. The snow and ice can cause frostbite and irritation in an animal's paws, and rock salt used to treat driveways and sidewalks can burn their feet or even cause digestive issues if ingested.
Bernier recommends using Musher's Wax to help protect them.
"It is a simple product you can put on your dog's paw pads," she explained. "It comes in a little container and it is the consistency of like maybe lip balm, and you rub it on your fingers and then you smear it all over their paw pads, it dries in one minute, and it provides a protection, a barrier between the paw pads and the salt, the sand, the ice, the snow."
Another good piece of advice is to check under your vehicle before driving off if you have a cat that is mainly an outdoor cat. Cats that stay outside often seek shelter under cars, or even in their engine compartments, so pet experts suggest you bang on the hood of your car to scare a cat out before starting your vehicle.
Bernier says it is also a good idea to help ill or elderly neighbors care for their pets during the winter when the temperatures and slippery conditions can make it difficult for them to care for their companions.