AS temperatures rise across the country, a St Helens-based veterinary practice is warning people not to underestimate the risks that pets face from overexposure to both the heat and direct sunlight.

White Cross Vets in Eccleston is concerned after a worrying number of pets were sunburnt or suffered from heatstroke following high temperatures at the end of last month.

Weather experts are now predicting more weeks of unbroken sunshine and high temperatures over the coming months.

Vet Ginny Jones, from White Cross Vets, said: “There are a number of straight forward precautions that most pet owners would usually take during the hotter summer months, like making sure there is always plenty of fresh water available, and not letting their pets stay in the sun for prolonged periods. 

"We would also advise people not to walk their dogs during the hottest part of the day, as the hot road surfaces can burn their paws and it’s vitally important to remind people to never leave their dog in a car, even for a few minutes, as a dog can quickly overheat and get heatstroke.”

Signs of heatstroke in dogs include very heavy panting and drool that becomes stringy rather than watery.  Ginny adds: “In severe cases, a dog might collapse and its tongue will turn blue. 

"Dogs suffering from heatstroke should ideally be checked over by a vet immediately and encouraged to cool down gradually using cool, rather than very cold, water whilst sitting them in a well-ventilated and shaded area.

"What most people don’t know is that a dog can die within just 15 minutes of being left in a hot car. If it’s 29 degrees outside, within 30 minutes the inside of a car heats up to 51 degrees, and leaving a window open or parking in the shade won’t necessarily help.”

White Cross Vets is also encouraging owners of pets with fair skin or very thin coats to apply specially formulated sun cream, as pets exposed to long periods in the sun can often suffer from sunburn in the same way that humans do. 

Ginny explains: “In recent years we’ve seen a surge of sunscreen products introduced to protect cats, dogs, horses and even smaller pets like rabbits against sunburn, and these are particularly effective

for breeds that have light skin, especially around their ears and noses, or short, fine fur.  We’re often asked whether human sunscreen can be used on pets, but generally it should be avoided because some of the ingredients can be toxic if the pet licks it off.”

Head nurse Allison Hodgson from White Cross Vets with her fair skinned pet pooch.