As temperatures dip dangerously low this week, domesticated animals such as cats and dogs depend on humans for protection from the elements.
A fur coat won't fully protect them from bone-chilling weather, which puts them at risk for frostbite, hypothermia and dehydration when water sources freeze.
Local residents are expected to wake up to temperatures of 5 to 10 below zero this morning. Combined with a wind of 10 to 20 mph, wind chill readings will plunge to negative single digits in the afternoon and remain around zero throughout the evening, said Maggie Johnson, meteorologist with AccuWeather in State College.
A dog tied to a doghouse in the Canoe Creek area watches traffic Wednesday in the cold weather. According to AccuWeather in State College, the high temperature for the day was 18 degrees, and forecasters are calling for even lower temperatures for the next few days. (Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich)
A northwest air mass will move in Friday and bring with it dangerous temperatures of 10 degrees below zero or colder, she said.
''The wind is going to be a big factor on Friday, which could end up being the coldest day of the season and possibly the year,'' Johnson said.
Debbie Pierce, director of marketing at the Central Pennsylvania Humane Society, asked that owners remember to take safety precautions for their pets. She urged residents to bring dogs and cats indoors when the temperature drops below freezing.
''People shouldn't be leaving their dogs outside in the cold weather, especially overnight,'' Pierce said. ''Puppies, older dogs and short-haired dogs are more sensitive to the cold. People think cats will be OK, but they can succumb to the weather, too.''
Dogs need outdoor exercise, but take care not to keep them out for lengthy periods during very cold weather.
''When people let them out, they should also let them back in,'' Pierce said.
Short-haired animals also will benefit from sweaters or coats while they're outside for bathroom breaks or walks, she added.
Cold temperatures mean extra hardship for dogs kept outdoors.
Pierce said outdoor dogs must be protected by a dry, draft-free doghouse large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably.
However, it should small enough to hold in body heat. The floor should be raised a few inches off the ground and covered with cedar shavings or straw. The house should be turned to face away from the wind, and the doorway should be covered with a flap of heavy, waterproof fabric or plastic.
Owners of outdoor dogs should make sure the animal has enough food to survive the cold and fresh water that isn't frozen, she said.
She emphasized that if you cannot bring your pet inside a house, having them sleep on warm blankets in a garage or basement is better than being totally exposed to the cold.
Remember that animals can experience frostbite, just like humans, and a wind chill can threaten a pet's life.
''Just think how you would feel out in that weather,'' she said. ''If you're cold and freezing, your animals will feel the same way. You should take proper measures to help them as if it were you out there.''