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Published: Dec 24, 2012

The weather outside is frightful, as the holiday tune goes, and just because your pets have a cozy coat of fur doesn't mean they won't still need some help navigating this chilly season. From snow and ice to anti-freeze and wintry hiding places, there are a number of ways the winter months can be hazardous to pets. Here are several precautions you should take to ensure your pets have a safe, warm winter - indoors and out.

Keeping cats safe outside
Generally, it's a good idea to keep feline companions inside all year long to prevent cat emergencies. In the winter, this is particularly important since cats can freeze. However, if you have outdoor felines in your neighborhood, you will still want to take some precautions to keep them safe. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports that some cats will sleep under the hoods of cars to stay warm, but if a motor starts when the feline is there, the result can be tragic. The organization recommends banging loudly on your car's hood before starting it to give the cat a chance to escape.

Curb the chemicals
Salt, antifreeze and other chemical concoctions are frequently used to melt slippery ice on the sidewalk. Even if you use another non-toxic option on your streets, it's a good idea to rinse your dog's paws when you bring him in from a walk to prevent him from licking the toxic chemicals - ingestion can cause dog vomiting and diarrhea. You should also be sure to keep coolant and anti-freeze for your car out of your dog's reach. This chemical tastes good to dogs, so always be careful when handling these chemicals and clean up any spills to prevent ingestion.

Stay safe in the snow
During a blizzard or after heavy snowfall, it's easier for dogs to lose a scent trail, which makes it easy to become lost. Always keep your dog on the leash during walks in a winter wonderland to stay safe. According to the ASPCA, more dogs are lost in the winter than during any other season, so it's also a good ideas to make sure your canine's microchip and ID tag info are up-to-date.

Keep warm
If you own a long-haired breed of dog, do not shave him down to the skin during the winter - he needs that coat for warmth! Other dogs might even need a sweater or jacket to stay warm outside. If your canine companion must have a bath during the chilly months, make sure you dry him completely before taking him outside.

If you are traveling with your dog or cat, never leave them alone in the car. The ASPCA reports that a car can act like a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold air, which can cause the animal to freeze.

Inside, make sure both your dogs and your cats have a warm place to sleep that is away from drafty windows or cold floors.