Gritters have been out in force this week as temperatures have plummeted across the country.

While the gritters may keep pedestrians and motorists safe on the icy roads and pavements, it can be potentially hazardous for animals.

We spoke to the experts to find out why the winter months can be dangerous for your pets and what you can do to help them.

Here's what the SSPCA had to say:

Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said that salt can irritate animals’ paws and may upset your pet’s digestive system if ingested.

And, in high doses, the rock salt found in grit could be toxic to dogs and cats.

HeraldScotland: Credit: Colin MearnsCredit: Colin Mearns

What can I do to protect my pet?

The SSPCA would always recommend washing your dog’s feet after they have been walking outdoors on gritted roads, particularly if they are prone to licking their paws.

What about walking on ice?

Ice and snow can be slippery for animals too, so make sure your dog is on the lead if you’re walking them somewhere where the ground is icy to minimise the risk of them injuring themselves in a slip or fall.

Mr Flynn also states that you should keep dogs on the lead around waterways as they can be at risk of falling through the ice.

HeraldScotland:

What if my pet falls through the ice?

The SSPCA receives lots of reports each year where people have tried to rescue their pet from a frozen loch or river, and often the consequences are tragic.

Mr Flynn said: "If your pet has fallen through the ice then you should call the fire and rescue service and wait for assistance.

"Never go out onto the ice after an animal as, while the ice may be able to hold the weight of a dog, it’s unlikely to hold the weight of a human."

HeraldScotland: Credit: Colin MearnsCredit: Colin Mearns

Should I let my pet outside in the cold?

The SSPCA state that if the weather is particularly bad, you should try to keep your dog’s walk as brief and make sure cats don’t stray too far from the safety of home.

They add that you should make sure any rabbits or Guinea pigs are brought indoors for shelter and check any outdoor water sources you have for your animals to make sure they don’t freeze over.

Should I let my dog off the lead?

Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn says: "Dogs can also pose a danger to waterfowl and other wildlife so please make sure they are under control at all times if there are wild animals in the area.

"Sadly, we often receive calls where dogs have injured or even killed wildlife and incidents like these can be easily avoided simply by keeping dogs on the lead."