Keep your cats indoors when it’s very cold outside and if you do let them out, make sure it’s not for long.

Use cat litter or sand on icy patches instead of salt to help protect animals’ paw pads.

Do not leave animals inside a vehicle, as it can act like a refrigerator and your pet can freeze to death.

These are some of the suggestions animal experts made Friday to pet owners.

“Be very cautious when leaving animals out in bitter cold for any length of time,” said Andrea Pasco, executive director of the Humane Society Waterville Area. “Most animals are not going to tolerate it for very long.”

And make sure your pets are inside at night.

“That’s when the temperature really drops,” she said.

We humans have the ability to open and close doors; most animals do not.

So, when temperatures dip, be mindful that animals have little control over their comings and goings and depend on people for their warmth and safety, according to animal advocates.

Veterinarian Gail Gibson of Animal Medical Clinic in Skowhegan said if that dogs who must be kept outside should have an insulated doghouse with a flap or door on the front so the animal can be out of the wind and cold.

She also said there should be a blanket or straw inside the dog house.

A dog’s water should also be changed two or three times a day or have some type of water heater such as those used for chicken pens, she said.

“Sometimes if they’re only brought water once a day, the dog gets dehydrated and its body is having to generate heat, and being dehydrated and trying to generate heat is not a good combination,” Gibson said.

Hillary Roberts, executive director of Kennebec Valley Humane Society in Augusta, warns that in winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep under hoods of cars.

“When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt,” Roberts wrote in a recent news release. “If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape.”

During a snowstorm, dogs should not be off their leashes during snowstorms because they can lose their scent and become lost, Roberts said.

“More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags,” she said in the release.

She recommends people wipe off their dogs’ stomachs and paws when they come in from outside so they won’t ingest salt, antifreeze or other chemicals.

Pasco recommends people inspect pets’ paw pads to make sure they’re not becoming dry, or were cut by ice. She said she uses bag balm on her pets’ pads.

Roberts also urges people to clean up coolant and antifreeze spills, which can be fatal to dogs and cats.

Pasco recommends devising a place outside for pets to warm up.

She said she keeps an old feather bed in one of the car ports at home and an open crate with blankets in the other so her pets will have a place to curl up.

Some animals, such as huskies, fare better in the cold, but dogs with short fur do not and should not stay outside for long, she said.

Gibson, of Animal Medical Clinic, advises being careful about allowing a dog to go out onto the ice of a lake, pond or other body of water.

“A dog cannot figure out what is thin ice and what is not thin ice and people want to go in after them,” she said. “Don’t trust that your dog can figure out if it’s thin ice. Dogs are always trying to check everything out and they think they can go right to the edge and look in.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247
acalder@centralmaine.com