The 5 Most Important Things Pet Owners Should Keep in Mind This Summer

Summer brings all kinds of opportunities for fun in the sun, but, as any pet owner will tell you, the season also comes with a host of potential pitfalls for dogs and cats. While some are mild annoyances, some are much more serious, and even potentially dangerous, for your beloved furry friend. Luckily, there are easy solutions for these seasonal stresses. Here, fast fixes for five of the most common summer-related pet problems.

1. Leaving Your Pet

Whether you’re boarding your pet or leaving them at home with a pet sitter, there are easy things you can do to help make the experience seamless and stress-free. First and foremost, avoid any other stressors, namely vaccines, around this time. “Dogs seem to guess you’re leaving even before the suitcases come out, so try to complete any vaccines needed for boarding at least two weeks beforehand,” advises Dr. Lisa Bane, DVM, and veterinary advisor for Side by Side. “The immune system also handles vaccines better and more efficiently if it is not also dealing with stress,” she adds. And whether you’re boarding your pet or leaving them at home, be sure to keep their diet consistent; now is not the time to experiment with new food or even treats, which can cause digestive issues. Bane advises bringing extra food if you’re boarding to make sure they don’t run out (over-feeding tends to be common at kennels, she points out) and including a probiotic supplement for digestive support, just in case. One good option: Side by Side Belly Balance ($16), which works for both dogs and cats. Placing one of your used pillow cases over their bed can help, too; your scent both comforts your pet, and helps them think that you’ll return, says Bane.

2. Traveling with Your Pet

 If your companion is joining you on your summer vacation, a little pre-planning can help ensure their journey is as smooth and comfortable as possible. Flying? Try to book night flights, so that your animal doesn’t ever have to be on the hot tarmac waiting to be put in a hot cargo hold, suggests Bane. Keep in mind that some holds get cold, so always include a blanket, and two bowls of water in your pet’s crate or carrier, she adds. (Keep one bowl frozen so that it will melt slowly and provide water for the entire flight.)  Even better: “Ask your airline about having your animal travel as Manifest Cargo instead of as checked luggage,” says Bane. The former often has a person who observes pets as they travel, in a hull that’s pressurized and temperature regulated, the safest option for your pet. As far as sedation goes, do so only if your pet will be in the cabin with you–sedation interferes with their ability to regulate body temperature, points out Bane–and do a test run at home first to ensure you know how your pet will react. If you’re driving to your destination, keep some herbal ginger tea to pour over your pet’s food, a fast fix for car sickness.

3. Summer Heat

Speaking of cars, a hot car is one of the biggest pet hazards this time of year.  “Never, not even for one minute, leave an animal in the car with the window up. It really only takes a few seconds for the car to become an oven, even in the shade,” says Bane, who adds that she travels with a large sign that reads ‘dogs in car’ to keep on her dashboard. Whether your pet is in the car or not, keep plenty of fresh water on-hand, and consider switching to a ceramic or clay water bowl, which will keep water cooler than steel or plastic. Ice cubes are another good way to not only keep the water cool, but also encourage your pet to hydrate.

4. Insect Bites

 Fleas, ticks, mosquitos…the possibility for bites is real come summer. Remember that flea and tick prevention is a necessity year round in most places, points out Bane, so be sure to speak with your vet about the best method for your pet. Do NOT use human insect repellent on your animal, as it can be toxic, particularly if it contains DEET; look for ones made for cats and dogs specifically. Try: Vet’s Best Mosquito Repellent Spray for Dogs & Cats ($7.50).

4. Summer Storms.

Loud thunder claps–not to mention those festive fireworks–can be very stressful for some animals. Bane advises providing them a safe place to retreat–their crate, the laundry room–and turning on the TV or dryer to create some white noise and a distraction from the loud sounds outside. Creating positive association via treats or toys can also help: “A Kong filled with your dog’s favorite treats will keep his or her mind off the storm or fireworks,” notes Bane.