Dermatology deals with skin and ear conditions, which are extremely common in small animal veterinary practice. Many skin conditions are not completely curable and can be challenging to manage, and can significantly impact on the quality of life of both pet and owner.

Happily, most dermatology conditions can be successfully controlled for the life of the animal, without concerns regarding side effects from the ongoing need for medication. It has been shown that the involvement of a dermatology specialist is associated with a better long-term outcome for the management of skin conditions.

Why has my pet been referred to a dermatologist?

The dermatology service accepts referrals of all types of skin disease, including allergies, autoimmune diseases, and diseases associated with systemic or internal disease. The types of presenting signs that animals can present with include the following.

  1. Itching (pruritus), seasonal or non-seasonal – often due to allergy
  2. Ear disease, recurrent or chronic – often secondary to allergy
  3. Spots and crusts – often due to secondary bacterial infection, associated with various underlying primary conditions
  4. Hair loss – either self-inflicted or due to failure of hair to grow
  5. Redness, greasiness, scaling, surface exudation
  6. Sores and ulcers
  7. Lumps or growths
What can I do in preparation for the first consultation?

Prior to your appointment we will have requested a full medical history, including results of any previous laboratory tests undertaken. At the first consultation the dermatologist will take a detailed history of the problem from you, including information about response (or lack of) to any previously prescribed treatments. It is helpful to bring along any drugs that your pet is currently on or has recently received to the consultation. Ideally your pet should be off other medications prior to the appointment so that further investigations can be undertaken, but this can be checked with your own vet and the dermatologist.

Which tests will be performed?

After a thorough clinical examination the possible differential diagnoses will be discussed with you. It is likely that samples will be taken for immediate microscopical examination, looking for parasites, bacteria, fungi, inflammatory or abnormal cells. Further investigations may be indicated, such as blood tests and allergy tests; these will be discussed with you prior to undertaking tests, covering the pros and cons of various testing options. Sometimes we will need to initiate testing or treatment prior to undertaking definitive testing such as sedation for intradermal allergy testing or biopsies. Sometimes we may need to keep your pet in as a day-patient to undertake further testing, but it is not usually necessary to keep them in overnight.

Can a dermatologist manage all skin conditions?

Where appropriate it may be necessary to share the care of your pet with one of our other specialist colleagues. Examples of this would be ear disease that fails to respond to medical management and requires surgical intervention, and cases with skin tumours that require surgical and, or, medical oncological treatment. In many cases, the ongoing care of an underlying dermatological condition, such as allergy, would remain with the dermatology service.

What will happen after a diagnosis is made?

A tailor-made management plan will be developed for your pet and their specific skin problems, in discussion with you. As dermatological diseases tend to be lifelong, follow-up is vital to assess response to treatments and to modify the management regime accordingly. Initial follow-up may require a re-examination appointment, but thereafter it may be possible to do much of the follow-up work remotely. However, for some conditions it will require regular rechecks every 6 – 12 months, particularly where ongoing prescriptions are required for allergy vaccines.

How will my vet know about the outcome of the dermatological investigation?

After every consultation a formal veterinary report will be sent to your own vet and also copied to owners, so that you have a full record of everything that was discussed at the appointment and notified to your primary care veterinary practice. Any time that there is communication about the pet’s skin condition with any treatment modifications or advice, this will also be copied to your vet.