A Cumbrian vet has urged pet owners to think before leaving their dogs in cars during hot weather – and warned it could be fatal.

Graham Lewis, a veterinary surgeon at Paragon Vets, said that he expects to treat at least one dog for heatstroke each year and has seen five fatalities in the last eight.

The warning came after police reported on social media that two officers had rescued a dog from “a very hot car” in Workington on Tuesday.

Mr Lewis said: “It is something we can see whenever there is a hot spell and, unfortunately, in a fair number of cases it can be fatal.”

In 2019, the RSPCA received 2,912 calls nationally about dogs being left in hot cars, and in Cumbria this figure was 89 – although this figure may be higher as often the police receive these emergency calls instead.

As lockdown restrictions ease and more tourists begin to visit the region, there may be more instances of animals being left in hot cars, suffering hot conditions in the back of south-facing estate cars on drives north, or not being given enough water and shade when taken on walks in the fells.

Mr Lewis said: “I would advise pet owners to keep their dogs out of the sun, take them for walks at the start and end of the day, keep them off hard hot surfaces such as concrete, and give them some shade and plenty of water when they are outdoors.”

Symptoms of heatstroke in dogs can include heavy panting, appearing distressed, foaming at the mouth, vomiting and diarrhoea. You should cool the dog down with cold water, a fan and/or a cold towel, and then take it to the vet as soon as possible.

A police spokesman said: “We were made aware of concerns about a dog being left in a hot car in the Marks and Spencer car park on Pow Street, Workington.

“A PCSO was approached by a member of the public on Tuesday,with reports that a dog was locked in the boot of a Seat Arona with two windows slightly open.

“Officers attended and the dog was removed from the vehicle.”

The RSPCA’s emergency cruelty line is 0300 1234 999.