During the hottest days of the year so far - with temperatures hitting 31°C in Stevenage this weekend - there is some concern about how dogs are being treated.

A worried mum in Great Ashby said: "I’ve seen a few out locally at midday [on Saturday and Sunday] and even my kids were horrified at seeing a huge fluffy dog at one o’clock being taken for a walk along the pavement at the bottom of Mendip and Great Ashby Way."

Another woman added: "Poor dogs should be at home at this point of the day - either early morning or early evening walks."

Dogs lose heat by panting, can only sweat through their paws and are at high risk of getting heatstroke.

To help keep your dog cool during hot weather, you should provide constant access to shaded areas both inside and out, and ensure there is always cold, clean, fresh water available.

Take your dog for a walk in the early morning or evening, when it is cooler, avoid pavements - instead opting for grassy areas, and don't run or cycle with your dog when it's hot.

Signs of heatstroke include heavy panting; excessively drooling; the dog appears lethargic, drowsy or uncoordinated; collapsed or vomiting.

A spokesman for the RSPCA said: "Dogs need exercise, even when it's hot. We recommend walking your dog in the morning or evening, when it's cooler, to reduce the risk of heatstroke and burning their paws on the pavement.

"Try the five seconds test - if it's too hot for your hands, it's too hot for paws."

These are the RSPCA's tips for keeping dogs happy and healthy in hot weather:

  • Never leave animals in hot cars, conservatories, outbuildings or caravans on a warm day, even if only for a short while. When it's 22°C outside, temperatures can quickly rise to 47°C in these environments, which can result in death.
  • On hot days, use pet safe sun cream on exposed parts of your pets skin, such as the tips of their ears and nose, to avoid sunburn. This is especially important if your dog has white or light coloured fur as they can be very vulnerable to getting burnt. If you're unsure on the right product, please ask your vet.
  • Ensure pets always have access to shade and fresh drinking water to help keep them cool.
  • Check every day for flystrike - a painful, sometimes fatal, condition caused by flies laying eggs on another animal, which hatch into maggots and eat their host's flesh.
  • Putting ice cubes in your dog's water bowl, or making some tasty ice cube treats, is another effective method to keep your pets cool. You could also freeze a Kong with treats and water.
  • Provide damp towels for your pet to lie on or an ice pack wrapped in a towel.
  • Regular grooming in warmer weather can help brush away any dead or excess hair, leaving your dog with a less dense coat - much better for staying cool.
  • Dogs may also appreciate a paddling pool to splash around in, although not all dogs like water.