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Cold-weather tips to keep your dog safe this winter

Don't leave your dog outside alone during the winter. 2012 file / News Tribune

The temperature outside has already started to drop, and chances are, if you're feeling the weather changes, so is your dog. As responsible pet owners, it's important to take special care of our dogs the same way we do ourselves.

The American Kennel Club offers the following tips for a safe winter season with your dog.

— Don't leave your dog alone outside. Even if you're just letting your dog out in the backyard, it's not safe to leave him alone during the cold temps. Always accompany him to make sure he doesn't have snow and ice stuck in between his paws. This can cause cuts and cracked pads. If your dog does get cracked paws, rubbing on a small amount of petroleum jelly may help soften and soothe paw pads.

— Limit time spent outside. Just like humans, if dogs spend too much time outdoors during frigid weather, they can get frostbite or hypothermia.

— Buy smaller and less active dogs a coat. Small, hairless and short-haired dogs are more likely to feel colder as temperatures drop. If you own a Chihuahua or Chinese Crested, for example, it's important to invest in a winter coat for them.

— Don't leave your dog alone in the car. It may seem like this rule only applies in the summer, but the cold can cause the same amount of harm to your pet. Always have your dog supervised in a car even if you're running a quick errand.

— Make sure to rinse and dry your dog's paws after a walk. Rock salt that is used to melt ice on sidewalks tends to irritate paw pads. Make sure to thoroughly cleanse your dog's paws after each walk.

— Keep your dog away from drafts. Tiled and uncarpeted floors can become very cold in the winter. Make sure to cover any uncarpeted floors in your home with blankets or pads to keep the surface warm for your pet.

— Watch out for spilled antifreeze on driveways. Some dogs are drawn to the taste and smell of antifreeze, but it's deadly if ingested. Be aware of possible antifreeze spillage on driveways and the streets when out with your dog.

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