MORE than half of UK pet owners say they never use sun protection on their animals, despite warnings from vets about the dangers of sun exposure.

A study has found 51 percent of pet owners admit to never using sun protection on their animals, with a further third saying they only do 'sometimes.'

It comes in spite of warnings from vets about the dangers of skin cancer and irritation from extended sun exposure following last week's heatwave.

Between Tuesday and Thursday last week, parts of the region reached 30c as temperatures across the UK soared.

But research published this week has found fewer than one-in-five people asked say they always use sun protection for their pets.

The study - commissioned by Webbox - also found only 17 percent of dog owners said they always apply sun cream before letting them outside in the sun.

What the experts have said

Dr Heather Venkat of VIP Puppies warned it was important to use sun protection on animals to prevent permanent damage including cancer.

She also warned against the use of sun protection made for humans as they can be toxic for cats and dogs, who may lick the protection from their fur and skin.

“Dogs and cats are prone to getting sunburns and skin cancer, just like people, but pet owners can easily protect their pets with some simple steps.

“Limit prolonged exposure to direct sun, and give your pet frequent breaks and access to shade.

"If your pet has shorter fur, especially if it is white, their pink skin will be more likely to burn.

"Dab small amounts of pet-safe sun creams and balms on your pet’s nose or bare areas that will be more exposed to sunlight, such as the tips of their ears."

Dr Venkat said it is important to never use sun cream designed for people on their pets as some dogs have been known to lick the lotion off.

She said: "This can be toxic and upsetting to their stomachs. The number one rule is to not shave your long-coated dog in the summer.

"It can actually make them more hot and prone to sunburns due to the loss in protection of their insulating layers of fur.”

'Don't forget to protect your pet'

Camille Ashforth of Webbox said: “With temperatures in the UK continuing to rise year on year, it is shocking that half of pet owners in the UK are not protecting them from the sun, especially when the impact of sun damage can be extremely unpleasant for your pets and lead to life-threatening conditions.

“We hope by sharing this research, owners will ensure that during the summer months, when applying sun cream to the family, they do not forget to protect their beloved pets as well.”