As you winterize your home, it's also a good idea to protect your dog or cat from the harsh weather.

Dr. John Stepusin, Pittsburgh veterinarian for the Animal Rescue League, says it's necessary to pay extra attention to your pets' comfort from now until March.And even though it's very rare for a dog or cat to get frostbite in the winter, Stepusin says precautions should be taken.

He recommends:

- An outdoor dog or cat can be kept out at all times in the winter if it has adequate shelter, a double ration of food and a daily supply of fresh water. An indoor dog or cat doesn't need extra food for the winter. Use good-quality brands, which are easier to digest.

- Feed your dog or cat a good vitamin supplement in winter. This helps keep their coats glossy and helps combat dryness. In the cold, outdoor dogs and cats grow a heavier coat and feel uncomfortable if brought inside.

- Make sure the outdoor shelter is big enough for the dog or cat to turn around and easily lie down. There should be a flap on the door to keep out the wind. Place straw, a rug or blanket on the floor. The straw should be changed regularly and the rug or blanket washed often.

- If you take your dog or cat outside, avoid situations in which it may get wet. If it does, dry the animal immediately, Stepusin says. The dog or cat can easily develop pneumonia.

- If your dog or cat is an indoor animal, keep it indoors at all times. Do not move it in and out. Taking long walks in the cold with your indoor pet can be asking for trouble.

Dr. Thomas Drake, an extension veterinarian at Pennsylvania State University, says commercial salts, which are used to melt ice and snow on concrete around a house, can cause irritation to a dog or cat's paws if the pet continuously walks on them. "Dry off a pet's paws each time it walks through slush that has salt in it."