DETROIT (CBS Detroit) – Baby, it’s not just cold outside, it’s downright frigid. And if it’s too cold for you to spend an extended period of time outside, it’s also too cold for dogs and cats.

As temperatures dropped below the freezing mark, the Michigan Humane Society and Detroit Dog Rescue reminded Detroit dog owners it’s their responsibility to ensure their pets are safe and comfortable.

Extreme cold temperatures can be very dangerous for dogs outside. Don’t believe the old adage about dogs being protected by fur coats in any weather — because their paws aren’t protected, nor are their thin-skinned underbellies.

If your dog is an outside pet, the position of the dog house is important. If possible, it should be up against the home with the opening of the dog house facing away from the wind. There should also be a lot of insulation — you want to put down straw, and not hay, because straw is actually treated to keep down mold and bacteria — enough so that the dog is actually suspended on the straw and not touching the floor of the dog house. And that straw should be changed out every month.

Here are tips to make sure your pets are comfortable through the dark, chilly days of winter.

1. Doggie Fitness & Relief – Dogs by nature love the outdoors.  They love to play, rip, run, sniff and of course take potty breaks.  However, during cold weather months pet owners need to pay more attention to the time spent outside.  Pet owners should limit their dogs’ time outside to reduce exposure.  When outdoors, dress your dog with an insulated vest, sweater and doggie boots to protect their paws and core.

2. Nutrition & Adequate Hydrations – Dogs that spend most of their time outdoors may need more calories to maintain their energy level in cold weather.  Always check with your vet regarding all changes to your dog’s diet.  It’s also important to make sure your dog has adequate water outside.  Keep it fresh and in a plastic bowl (avoid metal) to prevent it from freezing – contrary to popular belief dogs cannot break ice in a water bowl and you do not want them licking ice or eating snow as a way to hydrate.  Snow and ice in an urban setting can be filled with toxins from salt and other antifreeze products that are harmful to your dog’s digestive system.

 3. Lost And Found  – During the winter months Detroit Dog Rescue responds to a lot of lost, homeless and stray dog calls. Always keep a collar on your dog and consider having your pet identified with a microchip.  If your dog gets loose, lost or disoriented in cold weather with an ID collar and microchip you will have a fighting chance if your dog is found and can be returned home.

4. In The Dog House – If your dog must spend significant time outdoors, Detroit Dog Rescue encourages pet owners to provide adequate sheltering and bedding. Keeping your dog tied up to the porch, stairs, fence or a tree is not cool or humane. A good way to keep your dog secure and comfortable is in a doghouse – raised off the ground with a roof to shed away the elements.  In the doghouse make sure you keep enough straw (avoid hay) to provide a nice bedding for your dog.  Straw keeps mold and bacteria down and is a great insulator in the house.

5.  Pet Safety & Winter Hazard – In extreme cold weather believe-it-or-not your dog can get frostbite on their paw-pads.  Prolonged contact with frozen ground surfaces such as concrete and asphalt can be dangerous for dogs. Be aware of harmful substances such as road salt and other ice melting antifreeze products that can get lodged in between paws causing an irritation or chemical burn.  Always wipe down your dog’s paws after spending time outside – this will prevent them from digesting any toxic materials when they decide to lick and clean themselves.

If you see a pet in distress and without shelter, call the MHS cruelty hotline for pets in Detroit, Hamtramck or Highland Park at 313-872-3401. A confidential message can be left 24 hours a day. In other areas of the state, animal cruelty should be immediately reported to the local animal control or police.

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