Summer holidays are fast approaching and temperatures set to peak but while we humans might be looking forward to fun in the sun, it’s a different story for animals.

That’s why one of the north west’s top veterinary centres is urging all pet owners and animal lovers to be extra vigilant and extremely careful in the coming sunshine months.

little dog sits in a blooming meadow in spring. Jack Russell Terrier dog11 years old

Rachel Burrow, soft tissue surgery specialist at Northwest Veterinary Specialists (NWVS) in Runcorn, Cheshire, says summertime can be a particularly perilous time for our four-legged friends.

She said: “It’s vitally important for pet owners to take precautions to protect their animals from the heat as we approach the height of summer.

“One of the most crucial messages is that pets should never be left locked in cars or conservatories, as they can quickly become like ovens.

“An animal can die within 20 minutes from heatstroke – even if the windows are slightly down and there’s a bowl of water available.

“We also strongly advise against walking dogs on hot days and throwing balls or other toys for them to chase. Pets should be kept cool indoors or sheltered when temperatures are getting high.”

Some pets are at higher risk than others, particularly dogs with short noses like bulldogs, pugs, Shih-Tzus and Pekingese.

Rachel added: “Dogs are unable to sweat to lose heat. Instead dogs will pant and heavy panting may be a sign of overheating.

“Breeds such as Boxers and Collies will not stop playing even when they are overheating and dehydrated and this can cause them to suddenly collapse.

“Others, including King Charles Spaniels, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Bulldogs, are also particularly susceptible to this issue, which is why we recommend providing them with plenty of fresh water and cool areas to stay in.”

NWVS has done just that at its Sutton Weaver practice, where Covid-19 restrictions mean pets often have to wait outside before appointments.

Staff have installed an outside tap to provide fresh water and are handing out compostable cardboard drinking bowls for visiting pets.

Rachel added: “If dogs are dehydrated, they will show signs including distress and panting excessively, as they cannot sweat to lose heat.

“If your dog shows signs of heat exhaustion, you should call a vet immediately. You can also apply first aid by cooling the dog with water and fanning them.”

As well as dehydration, animals are also at risk of sun burn, just like humans.

Rachel said: “Many animals, particularly those with thin or light-coloured fur, are highly-susceptible to sunburn and even skin cancer, so it’s important to protect areas such as the ears, nose and tummy, which often have little or no hair on them.

“However, it’s crucial to ensure any sun cream is suitable for animals as many products contain toxic ingredients that will be harmful if your pet licks it off.”

Northwest Veterinary Specialists offer multi-disciplinary care in anaesthesia and analgesia, diagnostic imaging, internal medicine, neurology & neurosurgery, oncology, orthopaedic surgery, soft tissue surgery and veterinary physiotherapy.

For more information, visit or follow Northwest Veterinary Specialists on Facebook or Twitter.

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