Its not always easy to keep your dog safe in the winter months, no matter how important he is to you. For many pet owners, the most difficult task is ensuring their pets health while still keeping them happy, because the coldest months bring dangerous chemicals, severely dry skin, and the potential for hypothermia or frostbite.

The good news is, there are plenty of ways to keep your dog healthy and safe and still allow him to have fun outdoors. The first step is to plan well and know the risks that come with the coldest months. Here are some of the best tips for getting through the winter with a happy pup.

Watch for dry skin

Severe cold can lead to very dry skin, which is not only irritating, but can cause major problems if your dog cant stop scratching. Brush his coat every day and, if you notice that hes itchy, consult your vet about adding a fatty acid supplement to his diet to help ease the dryness. Its also a good idea to keep a humidifier running in your home.

Wipe those paws

Your pet walks through all sorts of things outside, and in the wintertime that can include poisons such as antifreeze, de-icer, and salt. After going for a walk, be sure to clean your dogs paws off with a warm washcloth or pet wipe.

Avoid slick spots

After a big snow, youll need to be extra careful about taking walks with your dog. Avoid icy areas and stick to shoveled walks or trails in the park. Slipping on an icy patch can lead to broken hips or wounded paws.

Plastic is best

Be sure to use plastic food and water bowls outdoors to avoid freezing, and check the water often to make sure its fresh.

Up the portions

Your pet uses lots of energy during cold months to stay warm, so make sure hes eating enough. Pack his diet with protein and add a bit more to the portions to give him an extra boost.

Limit time outside

Too much time outdoors can lead to frostbite or hypothermia, no matter how thick your dogs coat is. Be sure to limit how long he stays outside and give him plenty of breaks indoors so he can get warm and give the sensitive pads on his paws a rest.

Change things up

Making small changes around your home–such as moving space heaters to a spot where they cant easily be knocked over by your pet–can make a huge difference when it comes to safety. Think about your dogs bed placement as well, and move it to a warm spot if hes agreeable.