This is the second in a series of blog posts intended to help you determine when your four-legged family member might benefit from a visit with a veterinary specialist. Last week we visited the world of veterinary ophthalmology. This week, the focus is dermatology.
Veterinarians who specialize in dermatology devote their professional lives to diseases of the skin and ears. Itchy, scaly, bald, and greasy are just a few of their favorite adjectives. When should your pet be evaluated by a board certified veterinary dermatologist? I strongly encourage you to consider this when:
- Your pet’s skin disease is not getting better or is getting worse despite multiple visits with your family veterinarian.
- Your pet has chronic or recurrent ear infections. The external ear canals are simply an extension of the skin. So it makes sense that veterinarians who specialize in skin disease are also experts at diagnosing and treating ear disease.
- You want to determine what your pet is allergic to with hopes of desensitization therapy and/or elimination of the offending environmental allergens (dust mites, pollens, molds, etc.). The most accurate way to do this is via skin testing, a technique performed by veterinary dermatologists. While simpler to perform, blood testing to detect allergen sensitivities produces far less reliable results. During the skin testing process, very small amounts of allergens are injected within the superficial layers of the skin to determine which ones induce a significant reaction. This procedure is pain-free, but sedation may be needed for patients who are wiggly or impatient.
- Your pet has been diagnosed with an unusual type of skin disease, particularly one with which your family veterinarian has limited experience. By the way, it’s perfectly okay to ask your family vet how many cases he or she has treated in the past.
- Your pet has a chronic condition such as allergic dermatitis or pyoderma (skin infection). The specialist will be aware of cutting edge therapies for such diseases.
- You simply want to be more certain about the advice you’ve received from your family veterinarian.
- You are unhappy with the side effects of medication prescribed for your dog’s skin disease. For example, cortisone (prednisone) is often used to treat itchy skin. Common side effects of this medication in dogs include muscle weakness and increased thirst, urination, appetite, and panting.
To find a board certified veterinary dermatologist in your community or learn more about this specialty, visit the American College of Veterinary Dermatology.
Have you and your pet ever visited a veterinary dermatologist? What was the reason and what was the outcome?
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.