As Michiganders, we know how unpredictable and unforgiving Old Man Winter can be. While we battle biting winds, swirling snow snowstorms, and frigid, bone-chilling temps, it’s important to also consider the health and wellbeing of our four-legged friends.

If your pup is small or short-haired, bring them in when temperatures reach 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit. Larger breeds and thick-coated dogs may remain outside, with adequate shelter, to a temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s important to take special precaution while walking or playing outside with your pup. Make sure to dress your pup accordingly before you leave the house. If your dog has short hair, consider a sweater or dog coat.

During your time outside, it’s important to frequently check your dog’s paws for signs of any weather-related issues, such ice and snow accumulation between the toes.

To avoid this, be sure to trim that hair or invest in some booties for their feet. Another option is using a product such as Musher’s Secret Paw Protection Balm, which provides a direct barrier between your pup’s paws and the elements.

Also, consider using pet-safe deicers on your property to protect your pets and the others in your neighborhood.

During winter months, pet owners are strongly urged to keep their animals indoors. However, if you must leave your pet outdoors for any length of time, you are required by Michigan state law to provide them with adequate food, water and shelter.

The most important thing to do is closely monitor the amount of time your pets are left outdoors. Precipitation and wind chill should also be taken into consideration.

Increase the amount of food by 10-20 percent for dogs left outside during the winter months, as dogs burn more calories trying to stay warm. Check their water supply every few hours to ensure it has not frozen.

If you’re concerned that your – or someone else’s – pet may have spent too much time in the cold, there are easy identifiers.

If the pup is shivering, curling into a ball or trying to make a bed in the snow, has a pink nose, ears or paws, it’s probably too cold.

And, notice if the dog or the tip of the tail is turning bright red, as those may be a sign of frostbite. Move the animal to a warmer area and contact your veterinarian immediately.

As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local pet store if you have questions on this or any pet-related topic.