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Does My Dog Need a Jacket in the Cold? Answers to All of Your Burning (or, Freezing?) Winter Pet Questions

Just like you, your pets can have problems with extreme weather. And Winter Storm Inga isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

PEOPLE Pet Vet Dr. Evan Antin wants your pets to get through the season as warm and safe as possible. To help owners keep their pets out of the vet’s office and free of winter woes, Dr. Antin answered out burning (freezing?) questions about what to do when it gets “too cold” outside for animals and humans alike.

Read on to get Dr. Antin’s expert advice before the next big storm.

When is it too cold for dogs to spend time outside? 

Different breeds can tolerate different temperatures. For example a Chihuahua, “native” to Mexico/Latin America, prefers to be in temperatures of 70 degrees or more, whereas huskies love a winter wonderland. For most dogs, it’s best to offer somewhere for them to get warm when outdoor temperatures drop below 60 degrees. This current weather is too cold for any dog to stay outside for extended periods. At the very least, owners should have a dog house with a heat source outside. For smaller dogs and those vulnerable to cold weather, I highly recommend outerwear like sweaters, and possibly paw mittens.

Is pet clothing for dogs helpful during cold weather?

I highly recommend pet clothing like sweaters and insulated mittens, especially for small breeds.

How long should your dog’s walks be when it is cold outside? 

This varies based on breed and actual temperatures (and windchill, etc.) but with this extremely cold weather I would keep walks to less than 4 to 5 minutes for small breeds that don’t tolerate cold temperatures well. And 10 to 15 minutes for breeds that tolerate winter weather better. It’s important for owners to realize that their pets will communicate with them! For instance, if I take my dog Henry out in very cold weather (which has been a while; it’s not so cold in L.A.) he starts walking slower and looks at me often or even just stops walking when he’s finished. Pay close attention to your pet’s actions and behaviors and if it seems they’re done then they are done, and the walk should be finished.

How long is it safe to leave your dog outside during cold weather? 

For dogs that live mostly outside they definitely need a warm, heated shelter to get away from this arctic tundra weather!

How can cold weather harm or injure your pet? 

Just like people, cold weather can harm your pet. Frostbite can happen to any animal, including our beloved pet dogs. Hypothermia is also a real concern and can lead to many other issues. It is also important to check your pet’s water bowl outside and change it often because if it freezes, your pet will dehydrate and this will expedite hypothermia and cold weather problems. Another tip is to have a running water source or water pump that keeps water from getting stagnant, which significantly delays or even prevents the freezing of water.

Is it true that salt used to melt snow is dangerous for dog paws? 

Some street salts are toxic. Either way, you don’t want your pet consuming excessive amounts of salts as it can throw off your pet’s water balance and lead to other issues. Don’t let pets eat street or pavement salts.

What are the best ways to keep your dog safe and warm during the winter? 

The best thing to do is ensure short visits to the outdoors and always have a warm shelter available for pets. Supplementing warmth with clothing is a great way to keep your furry loved ones comfortable. And trust me, pets love sitting by the fireplace.

Are there any precautions you should take for indoor cats during the winter? 

Offer indoor cats warm spots, as well. This could be a heating mat, heating lamp or a fireplace. Floors and spots near windows get much colder in the winter and our kitties like to stay warm, too!

This article originally appeared on People.com