Hot summer weather brings the opportunity for fun to families of all shapes and sizes. Summertime is synonymous with barbecues, picnics, swimming, camping, relaxing and vacationing.

During these record-setting hot months, we try to take all the proper precautions to protect the ones we love. It’s easy to remember to put sun block on the kids and make sure to keep your spouse or partner hydrated while they’re doing yard work, but what about the beloved family pet?

Although many of us see our pets as members of the family, it’s important to remember that they are animals and often have specific needs different from our own.

Below you will find tips, tricks and advice on keeping your pet safe during the summer, what to do with your pet when you go on vacation and how to find a good kennel.

Dr. Lisa Jones, Dr. Elizabeth Alexander and Dr. Beverly Bevan of the Animal Hospital at Southgate in Glen Burnie offered some key points to keep in mind to ensure a safe, happy summer for both pets and their owners.

  • Never Leave Pets in Cars—Even a five to 10 minute trip means that temperatures could exceed 120 degrees in a car with closed windows.
  • Exercise Early—Be sure to walk your pet early in the morning. The hot sun can heat up roads and cause paw pads to blister.
  • Dogs Can’t Sweat—The only way for a dog to cool down is to pant. Don’t leave your pet out in the yard for too long and always make sure they have access to fresh water. To help your pet cool off, moisten their belly and chest with cool water and let it evaporate.
  • Know Your Breed—Some types of dogs are especially prone to overheating. Short-snouted dogs like bulldogs and pugs find it harder to breathe in hot, humid weather and can get heat exhaustion more quickly than other breeds. Read up and see if your dog has any special needs.
  • Keep Your Dog on a Leash—Not only is it Anne Arundel County law, but it’s a safe bet. Loose dogs can chase cars, kids on bikes or get into garbage. Avoid injury or dealing with an angry neighbor by keeping dogs leashed at all times.
  • Current ID Tags are Crucial—Just in case your pet does happen to be an escape artist, keep current identification tags on their collars at all times. Also consider microchipping your pet if you haven’t already. Both tags and a microchip help ensure a pet’s safe return.
  • Prevent Infection—Flea, tick and heartworm prevention is necessary year-round, but especially so during the summer because of the influx of these nasty pests.
  • Monitor Allergy and Toxin Exposures—Spring and summer is a great time for lawn care and gardening but some materials used can be poisonous to pets. Check lawn fertilizers to make sure they are pet-friendly.
  • Swim with Caution—If your pet swims in any local bodies of water, make sure they are up to date on their shots. Polluted water can mean infections. Keep a close eye on your pet to avoid accidents with boats or jet skis. Accidental drowning is a concern too, so if you take your pet on a boat or your pet isn’t a strong swimmer, consider purchasing a pet life jacket.
  • Barbecue Responsibly—A rack of ribs might be delicious but they are dangerous for dogs. Bone splinters can be harmful and the meat is generally too fatty. Avoid the temptation to sneak a bone-in treat to your pet. If your grill is out in the open, keep your dog in sight. Accidental burns can happen when the grillmaster gets sidetracked and the dog jumps up to grab a morsel.
  • Vaccinations are Important—The start of summer is a great time to take your pet in for an exam so that you can be sure your friend is current on all required vaccines and to have the vet screen for any new illnesses.

“I believe that if you love them, leave your pets home in the air conditioning whenever possible,” Bevan said. “And as always, spay and neuter your pets.”

If something does happen to your pet during off-hours, it’s important to know where your closest emergency vet clinic is located. Clinics like the Anne Arundel Veterinary Emergency Clinic is open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year and can help when your regular vet isn’t available.

Whether you’re taking your pet along on a camping trip or leaving him land-bound during your Bahamas cruise, there are a few tidbits to keep in mind to make sure your pet is comfortable.

Barbara Hannum, Owner of Fresh Pet, Inc. in Upper Marlboro and Lori Holt of Noah’s Ark Veterinary Boarding Resort in Millersville, shared advice on proper grooming and finding the right kennel for your pet.


  • Long-Haired Dogs Need Brushing—If you don’t want your dog shaved down to “velvet,” be sure to brush him or her regularly before a grooming appointment. Long-haired dogs feel different if shaved down too much, but the recommended one-and-a-half-inch fur length cannot be achieved pain-free if the dog has not been brushed regularly. Some work must be done at home.
  • Shaved Pets can get Sunburn—If your pet has a summer buzz cut, don’t let him or her stay in the sun for too long. Also besure to  keep the bugs away from that easily-accessible skin.
  • Keep Cool—When hiking or camping, carry a small spray bottle full of water to mist your dog. Lift up the fur and moisten down to the skin or use a wet cloth on their face and belly. Products like cooling mats and vests also are available from pet supply retailers. 
  • Pesticide-Free is Best—If your pal shares your sleeping bag or lets the kids hang all over him or her, consider using pesticide-free pest repellant products like Natural Defense or Protect. This way, the bugs steer clear and your family stays safe.

Hannum, who has been grooming and showing dogs for more than 30 years, swears by pesticide-free products.

“I’ve watched these products on the market for years,” she said. “I’ve kept up with fellow groomers from Massachusetts to Florida who use them and I’m convinced that yes, they do work.”

Finding a Kennel

  • Find out the Tour Policy —Look for a kennel that has an open-door policy. This way, you can come in at any time to see what the kennel is like. With appointment-only tours, the setup can be easily staged. Playtimes fall under the open door policy as well. If you can pop in anytime and see pets being played with, you’ll be more confident that your pet will receive all services you request and pay for.
  • Find out the Walk/Exercise Policy—Some kennels let all the dogs out at once, risking possible fights or injury. A good kennel won’t let dogs run around together unless they know the dogs get along.
  • Does the Kennel have Overnight Staff?—A kennel that has overnight staff offers more peace of mind for the owners and ensures the wellbeing of boarded pets.
  • Tour Different Kennels—If you are new to the area, it’s especially important to tour more than one facility. You will be better able to compare and contrast each place and choose one based upon your own experiences.

“The open door policy is the No. 1 thing to check for,” Holt said. “With an open door policy, there is nothing to hide and you can see how things are at anytime. Tours by appointment or at scheduled times make me wonder if maybe that kennel is hiding something or staging areas for prospective clients.”

It’s important to know your pet’s personality. If he is shy or does better in a quieter place, pet sitters or in-house boarding can provide a suitable alternative to traditional boarding. Sitters are great for cats and can conform to a schedule that your pet needs. If your dog gets anxious in a kennel environment, places like Happy Dogs in Bowie bring your dog into a private home. Usually run by a family, they take in a few dogs at a time and treat them as their own.

“Talking to friends or colleagues about their experiences with pet sitters, groomers and kennels is a also good idea,” Bevan said. “It gives pet owners more confidence about their choices, knowing that their pets are going to a place that comes highly recommended by people they trust.”