With boating season in high gear, it's a good time for a little refresher on pet-friendly boating to ensure your little one is safe. Before hitting the high seas with your pet, it's important to plan ahead and always keep the best interests of your four-legged friend in mind.

Be sure to take these necessary provisions to ensure that your pet's boat cruise is a happy and safe one:

•Identification tag: Make sure your pet has a collar with an identification tag. Include contact information, marina address and slip number.

 •Familiarization with the boat: It is best to gradually introduce your pet to your boat and the water. Let your pet explore the boat while it is docked before going out on the water. Turn on the engine and let them get used to its sound, smell and feel while the boat is docked. Then take your pet out on small cruises and gradually build up to longer cruise.

•Safe and easy boat access: Provide a special pet ramp for your pet to get on and off the boat. This not only includes from the dock to the boat but also from the water to the boat. Pets weigh much more wet than dry and it can be very difficult to lift them back into your boat after a swim.

•Flotation device: A personal flotation device for your pet can also ensure safety while on the water. Not all pets can swim. Even if your pet is a good swimmer, getting tossed overboard can put any animal into a panic. In addition, your pet could suffer from exhaustion or hypothermia. Many pets also fall into the water from the dock or while trying to get from the dock to the boat. Help your pet get used to the PFD by first practicing at home for short periods of time. Start by putting the PFD on your pet and let them walk around with it on. The next step is to let your pet swim with it on for a short period. It's a new experience for your pet so it's important for them to get used to it before the boat trip.

•Proper hydration and staying cool: Pets do not sweat, so keep an eye out for heavy panting or drool and a rapid heart beat. Protect pets from heat by providing some shade on the boat, providing plenty of water and keeping the deck cool to protect paw pads. Bring along a pet travel bowl and fresh water. It is critical to hydrate pets before they get into the water. Otherwise, they will drink the natural water and may get sick.

•Going potty: Bringing along your cat's litter box and securing it inside the cabin is a good solution for your feline friends. Dogs, however, are a bigger challenge. If your boat trip does not allow for regular land stops for your dog to do their business, then provisions must be made so that they can relieve themselves on the boat. A portable dog potty that simulates grass is an excellent solution.    

•Health records: If your boating destination is a marina or place that you're not familiar with, be sure to bring along a copy of vaccination and health records. Some places may require proof of immunization before letting pets explore on land.