Pets remain among our most trusted and cherished friends.

Millions of people worldwide see their pets as extensions of their own families and will go out of their way to protect them from dangers of all kinds.

Here in the Great Lakes region of the United States, frigid temperatures are threatening domesticated animals of all sorts. And, of course, the pet lovers are ready to take the necessary measures to protect their animals.

With temperature readings plunging to minus readings in northern Michigan it is important to offer our furry friends special care to keep them out of harms way.

Practical safety tips to protect our special friends include:

● Bring all pets into the house when the temperatures plunge to unbearable levels.

● Feed your pets a little more since they burn more calories in the cold. The more your pets are outside, the more they’ll need to eat.

● Be sure your pet has plenty of fresh water to drink. Pets lose moisture through breathing, and the effects of cold temperatures are magnified by dehydration. Keep water bowls free of snow and ice.

● Notice that your skin is drier and flakier during the winter? Your pet’s skin may dry out, too, causing their coat to lose insulating ability. If you notice flaking skin (doggie dandruff) or a lusterless coat, ask your vet about adding a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil to their food.

● Keep an eye on your pets when you put them outside to “do their business.” Wind chills cut through short fur just as fast as they do through your street clothes, and even tough paw pads can be frost bitten. Use pet sweaters and boots that fit well but leave plenty of freedom of movement for walking, running, playing and ... er, going.

● Don’t leave your animals outside too long. If your pet is shivering or limping — even if having a great time playing — get them into the house immediately. If you don’t you may end up carrying them.

● When the snow starts piling up, shovel paths and a bathroom area in your yard.

● If your dog insists on going for walks regardless of cold temperatures, don’t go too far and be sure to clean their feet when you get back to protect them from salts and chemicals damaging their feet and possibly their digestive tracts if they lick their feet.

● Don’t use salts or chemicals in dog pens or play areas.

● Keep your animals away from anti-freeze and windshield deicer spills as even small quantities can kill, depending on the size of the animal. Symptoms of your animal ingesting these substances include lack of coordination, depression, the appearance of being drunk, vomiting, and increased water intake and urination.

If you suspect anti-freeze poisoning, call your doctor immediately as these chemicals can cause irreparable kidney damage or death in a matter of hours.

Keep your pets safe and out of harms way by following  these and other common sense measures.