A veterinary dermatologist is just that—a veterinarian who has undergone additional dermatology-specific residency training post-veterinary school and who specialize in the treatment of skin diseases of animals. What you may not realize is what we actually do or why your pet may need one.
Veterinary dermatologists treat a variety of skin issues, including infections, parasites, autoimmune diseases, and some types of skin cancer. The reason most people end up in a pet dermatologist’s office is because their dog or cat is itchy. A large portion of cases we see relate to allergies and how they show up in the skin of our pets. So, an additional service dermatologists offer usually includes allergy management, such as allergy testing, immunotherapy (allergy shots), and elimination diets. We also treat the complications that often come with allergies in our pets, such as skin or ear infections. Yup, dermatologists are also responsible for ears! So, if your pet is having frequent episodes of scratching, licking, or rubbing, develops bumps or crusts on its skin, or is having repeated ear infections, it may be time to seek out a dermatologist. Your regular veterinarian may refer you to one if your pet is having recurrent issues, if standard treatments aren’t working, or if they have a more unusual or rare type of skin disease.
Visiting a veterinary specialist for the first time can be nerve wracking or confusing for some pet owners, as the visit may look and feel different from what you’re used to at your primary vet’s office. Just remember, we are here to help! We work with you, your pet, and your primary veterinarian to design the best treatment plan for your furry friends. The first thing that will always happen is a dermatologic exam will be performed, where we evaluate the skin, ears, feet, and mucous membranes. Next, most cases will require some kind of cytology. This is a non-invasive diagnostic procedure where we collect samples from the surface of the skin (using cotton swabs, clear acetate tape, or gently scraping the surface) or ears and evaluate them under the microscope. This allows us to see yeast, bacteria, certain kinds of cells, and parasites, for which we can then direct treatment. We may occasionally require further diagnostics, such as bacterial cultures or skin biopsies if our cytology samples are unable to give us the information we need. We will then discuss our findings and treatment plan with you. Many of the pets in our care require long-term management, so we try our best to work with you to find a treatment that fits your goals, values, and budget and that gets your pet back to feeling their best!