Stirring up a blazing fire, putting on a thick jacket, drinking a steaming beverage – we will do anything to keep ourselves warm on a cold day.

While you keep yourself safe this winter, don't forget a little part of your family that might need your help – your pet.

Pets like dogs and cats can be affected by the cold weather just as much as humans.

“If you are cold, it is likely that your pet is cold, too,” said the American Animal Hospital Association.

Like humans, pets can get sick and develop frostbite or contract hypothermia from the cold.

Frostbite takes the blood from extremities – arms, feet, etc. – and draws it into the body's core to warm up the animal. This can, in turn, cause those extremities to get so cold that ice crystals will form in their tissues.

This disease is not always caught early as the onset of the tissues' damage could take days, according to the association.

Hypothermia occurs when the body's temperature drops below normal.

A dog's and cat's body temperature should be around 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Animal Planet's website. If it drops, an animal can start to shiver and/or become depressed or weak.

If the hypothermia goes untreated, the animal's muscles could stiffen and/or his heart rate could slow.

“The animal will stop responding to stimuli,” according to the association.

If your pet starts whining or looking for places to burrow into, that might be his way of telling you to let him inside.

“If they can fit inside your house, they need to come inside,” said Kate Koelker, veterinary technician for SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare.

That is her top recommendation for protecting pets from the cold.

When you bring them in, make sure they, especially for your outdoor animals, have a designated area. This area should have a bed, food and water and a litter box or an equivalent system.

If the animal isn't house trained, that's no reason to hesitate to bring them in.

“Put down newspaper or something that you can easily clean up,” Koelker said.

If you are one to have your heat on during the winter, check your system for carbon monoxide leakage.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, invisible gas that can cause problems from headaches to trouble breathing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A leakage could affect you and your pet.

If you use a fireplace, watch to make sure your dog or cat doesn't get too close and burn themselves.

Those pets that are most advised to bring inside are those that are very young, very old or sick.

If the day is bearable enough for you to go for a walk or run, your pet can join you. If you are still worried about your furry friend, put them in a sweater/or booties, Koelker said.

“Pets lose more of their body heat through the pads of their feet, their ears and their respiratory tract,” according to the American Animal Hospital Association.

If you take a stroll by a lake and let your dog off his or her leash, make sure he or she won't go on the ice. They can fall through.

If you must keep your animal outside, he or she can survive.

They would need to have a sheltered space – try the garage or shed – with plenty of warming bedding such as blankets or hay.

“Block the entrances from wind gust,” said Cindy Brown, Aiken Animal Hospital veterinarian.

If no shelter is provided, your pet might resort to creating his or her own by hiding under decks or cellars or digging into the snow. These methods can cause your animal to become trapped.

Check their food and water often. They tend to need more food to help produce body heat, and their water can become frozen, Brown said.

Being among the ice and snow can cause rock salt, ice and chemical ice melts to stick onto their feet. Licking the salt can cause the digestive tract to inflame.

Cleaning their feet can help avoid this.

Cats who are cold will gravitate toward warm areas like car engines.

“Do not start cars in the winter without banging on the hood,” Brown said.

Annual checkups are recommended for normal pet care, Koelker said.

A checkup before winter sets might help prevent any winter-related disease, according to the association.

If your animal does too cold and sick because of it, “warm them slowly,” Koelker said.

Get them inside and under some blankets. Take them to their veterinarian.

“To quote (veterinarian) Dr. Marty Becker and (pet writer) Gina Spadafori, 'Cold-weather pet care is a matter of compassion and common sense. Use both in equal measure, and your pet will get through the worst of the season in fine shape,'” Brown said.

For more questions, contact your veterinarian or visit the American Animal Hospital Association's website at

Stephanie Turner graduated from Valdosta State University in 2012. She then signed on with the Aiken Standard, where she is now the arts and entertainment reporter.