These slippery customers may be enjoying the sun – but, with a heatwave hitting Sussex, pet owners have been warned to take steps to ensure they do not “cook alive” their furry friends.

During last weekend’s scorching temperatures, charities said they received one call every eight minutes about animals trapped in hot cars, or left without shade or shelter.

With the mercury expected to soar again, experts have warned that creatures both domestic and wild were at risk.

A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said: “People need to be careful with all pets in the heat – cats, rabbits and guinea pigs can also be very susceptible to heatstroke.”

RSPCA chief inspector Dermot Murphy said: “Leaving a dog in a hot car has the same kind of effect as putting it in a microwave.

“They are literally cooked alive, in what is a horrendous death.

“People just aren’t listening. Leaving a window open simply isn’t enough and in-car temperatures rise quickly, even if it’s cloudy.”

Rescuers said four hedgehogs in Sussex died recently after being admitted with severe dehydration and emaciation.

Trevor Weeks, of East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service, said: “We are seeing a lot of dehydrated hedgehogs coming in for care at the moment which are struggling to find food due to the harder ground.

“Ensuring a shallow bowl of water is available in gardens will make a big difference.”

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Among the animals enjoying the weather are sunbathing snakes and chilled out Noel, the chameleon, at Hastings Blue Reef Aquarium.

Blue Reef’s Chris Ireland said: “Snakes are cold blooded and need to warm up before they become active.

“In their displays we make use of heat lamps to achieve this but there’s no comparison to actually sitting out in the sun and so we’ve decided to start taking them outside during the hot weather.

“The deckchair is particularly effective as the material it’s made from heats up and you can almost see the snakes enjoying the sensation of sunbathing.”

Elsewhere in Sussex, keepers at Drusillas Park in Alfriston have stocked freezers with giant lollipops, made with frozen fruit for its animals.

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