Join our daily dog discussions


It’s an undercover job - help keep your dog comfy in the skin they’re in

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes and with smooth, shaggy, or fluffy coats. But underneath that distinguishing fur, they all have one thing in common – their skin. And a happy dog has healthy skin. Tesco Bank Pet Insurance and pet health advisors, vetfone®, suggest how you can ensure your dog is content with the skin they’re in.

Your dog’s skin is the largest organ of its body, covering everything including the lining deep inside the ear. It’s important to keep it in tip-top condition because it has some important jobs to do, like protecting muscles, bones and organs from physical damage and infection. But it may not always be smooth going – the skin can suffer from wounds, trauma, parasites, allergic reactions and hormonal and immune system problems.

Skin is complicated and diagnosis and treatment of problems can be lengthy and complex. Fortunately, the majority of dogs’ skin problems are short-term ‘acute’ conditions that are self-limiting and easily resolved at home. You may not even need to visit the vet.

However, some skin problems may last for months and potentially years. These ‘chronic’ conditions always call for a visit to the vet.

If after 72 hours of homecare, an acute condition doesn’t seem to be getting better, then any further delay in seeing your vet could lead to that problem becoming ‘chronic’. Chronic problems last longer, cause more discomfort to your pet and are more difficult to diagnose and treat.

You should first rule out simple, common and obvious problems, such as parasites. You can do this by combing your dog’s coat with a head lice comb over a sheet of paper while looking for fleas, flea excrement or other parasites. This test isn’t 100% effective so if problems persist, your vet can check for other parasites in the consulting room with a skin scrape. Other tests may include tape strips for yeasts and the Woods lamp for ringworm.

Simple management is often best. Try to prevent your dog licking, scratching and rubbing. With allergies, identify and then avoid what triggers the reaction. However, this isn’t always possible, with pollens and dust mites for example, so treatment may be required. In an allergic animal, it’s advisable to ensure they are protected with good, prescription strength flea treatments and environmental spray at all times. Modern flea treatments cover several parasites in one go.

Access to vetfone® is included as a standard benefit with every Tesco Bank Pet Insurance policy – so if you are worried about your dog’s skin you can call to get advice from their team of nurses qualified with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

vetfone® is provided by Vetsdirect ltd.

  • Salt water can soothe the skin. Dissolve a teaspoon of salt into a pint of cooled, boiled water and bathe the affected areas.
  • Always regularly check for and prevent parasites such as fleas. They are a common cause of skin allergies. Just one or two fleas are enough to spark off a reaction as it’s their saliva that your pet is allergic to.
  • Don’t let your dog lick or scratch sore skin. The tongue is abrasive and saliva irritating.
  • If your dog is scratching, consider clipping the nails short or dressing the foot used with a child’s sock. Or create a body dressing using a child’s T-shirt to reduce trauma from the scratching until a solution is found.
  • Don’t use human products on your dog. They are not meant for animals and could be an irritant or even toxic if licked or swallowed.
  • Use any shampoos provided by the vet as directed. These are often medicated and as much part of the treatment as any tablets.
  • Always finish a course of treatment given by your vet and regularly attend any appointments until given the all clear.
  • Most skin conditions are made worse by heat, so keeping your dog cool, especially in summer is useful. A cold compress on an isolated area of irritation can help keep the dog comfortable.

For more information, please seek veterinary advice.

Tesco Bank Pet Insurance is arranged, administered and underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc.
Terms and conditions: Pets must be at least eight weeks old when cover starts. Pre-existing medical conditions are not covered and certain breeds of cats and dogs are also not covered. Full policy details are online at
Tesco Bank is a trading name of Tesco Personal Finance plc. Registered in Scotland No. SC173199. Registered Office: Interpoint Building, 22 Haymarket Yards, Edinburgh EH12 5BH. Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Not found what you are looking for? Email your advice question to for the chance to have your question answered by our panel of experts!