PET owners have been told they should be putting sun cream on their animals on hot days to stop them suffering from sunburn and heatstroke.

White Cross Vets in Widnes warned residents that fair-haired cats, dogs, horses and small pets like rabbits would all benefit from sunscreen, especially on their ears and noses as these areas are particularly at risk of getting burned.

But people should use products for animals rather than human sun cream, which can be toxic if pets eat it.

Vet Archie Cummings, from White Cross Vets, said: “There are a number of straightforward 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 is vitally important to remind people to never leave their dog in a car, even for a few minutes, as they can quickly overheat and get heatstroke.”

He added that excessive panting and ‘stringy’ drool can be signs of heatstroke for dogs and in extreme cases the animal could collapse and its tongue may turn blue.

Anyone concerned about their pet should take them straight to a vet and should help the animal cool down gradually with cool, rather than ice cold, water.

Dogs can die within 15 minutes if left inside a car on a hot day.

Archie added: “In recent years we have 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.”