In my family, our pets aren't pets. They’re honorary people. Whatever we would do for another human family member, we are equally prepared to do for a non-human family member. When summer comes, our treasured furred, finned, and feathered family members can feel just as uncomfortable in the heat, and can be just as prone to common "people problems" like sunburn, skin irritation, insect bites and stings, and overheating. This post introduces you to some cheap and easy ways you can ensure your pet stays cool and comfy by your side all summer long.

Many of these tips are free—some will save you money—some may cost a dollar or a few. But overall, these tips prove it is very inexpensive to ensure your pets have a safe, comfortable, and fun summer!

1. Un-schedule those routine coat trims

While it may not make much overt sense, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) asks pet owners to keep coats long in summer if at all possible. The longer fur actually helps with air circulation and skin cooling—and keeps your pet's sensitive skin better protected from UVA and UVB rays.

2. Use natural aloe for burns and skin irritation

While you can certainly purchase any one of the expensive pet skin products that are commercially available, simple and pure aloe vera is both the cheapest and the best for easing sunburn and skin irritation pain. Buy a small, potted aloe vera plant and keep it by your back door. Break off a stalk whenever needed.

3. Offer homemade icy treats to combat overheating

Pet popsicles are a great cheap way to keep pets cool in summer—especially if your pet must be outdoors for any length of time during peak heat hours (10 AM to 2 PM). You can make pet popsicles out of anything, but one of the best recipes to start with is the Humane Society's "peanut butter with mashed banana pops."

Instructions:

  • One cup all-natural, unsalted, unsweetened peanut butter
  • One small (or one-half large) ripe banana, mashed
  • Small amount of water (for mixability)

Combine all three ingredients together, adding water as needed. When ready, put the mixture into ice cube trays, onto cookie sheets, in a Kong, or in popsicle molds. Freeze and serve.

4. Understand how pets release sweat

As humidity rises, people sweat, well, everywhere. But furred pets such as dogs and cats mainly sweat it out through their foot pads. So setting up a fan won't cut it. Rather, use a combination of shade, lower humidity conditions, icy treats, a cool floor, and nice cold drinking water to cool your pet down from the inside out.

Note: When it comes to setting temperatures, a good rule of thumb (courtesy of Prevention.com) is: "if it is too hot for you, it is too hot for your pet." This rule applies both indoors and outdoors.

5. Use sunscreen

Here, be sure you consult your veterinarian before simply applying sunscreen, because some ingredients that are safe for people (such as zinc oxide, a common sunscreen ingredient) are not safe for pets. But by all means, do apply sunscreen if your pet will be outdoors. Pay close attention to foot pads, noses, faces, muzzles, ears (inner and outer) and other particularly sensitive areas.

Note: You may also want to ask your vet about pet eye and ear drops if your pet will be joining you for summer water fun.

6. Swim safely

Just because your pet is a strong swimmer doesn't mean he or she knows all the dangers that may lurk in the water. Whenever you visit a beach or unfamiliar water body, keep your pet close. If you do permit free swimming, make your pet wear a life jacket. Make sure your pet understands how to enter and exit (by teaching use of stairs if needed) and never ever leave the water area while your pet is swimming. Finally, if you see algae, which can cause illness or seizures, keep your pet away from the water.

7. Don't forget pests

Those pests that think you are delicious are probably equally happy to snack on your pet. Find out from your vet what pet-friendly repellants you can use to shield your pet from bites and stings.

8. Remember, overheating kills

Last summer, Samaritan Magazine published the story of a veterinarian who locked himself in a hot car to experience firsthand what thousands of pets (and some human kids) die from each year. His goal was to publicize how dangerous hot cars are for kids and pets. If you take your pet with you for a car ride, be sure you can take him or her inside at your destination—otherwise, leave your pet at home.