When our dogs get ill or we spot a potential problem in the making, our first port of call is the local veterinary clinic that cares for our pets, who can identify, diagnose and treat all of the common challenges, health conditions and injuries that dogs may acquire or develop from time to time.
However, there are some health problems and injuries that may be outside of a general practice small animal veterinary surgeon’s field of expertise, and that may require referral to a specialist in a specific field.
Skin problems in dogs come in a wide variety of different forms and types, with a vast range of different root causes. When you factor in immune-mediated conditions, hereditary health conditions, allergies and sensitivities and other skin and coat issues, the skin specialty is a large and diverse one, and issues of this type may be investigated and treated by a specialist veterinary dermatologist.
Your vet might refer your dog to a veterinary dermatologist if they are not sure of their diagnosis or how best to treat the issue, or if they feel that your dog needs a more complex investigation or treatment than their general small animal clinic can provide.
You can also request that your vet refers you to a veterinary dermatologist if you would like a second opinion or to get input from a specialist, and you may also be able to self-refer independently of your own vet too.
In this article we will explain what a veterinary dermatologist does, the types of problems that they can help with, and how to tell if your dog could benefit from referral to a qualified practicing veterinary skincare specialist. Read on to learn more about veterinary dermatology.
A veterinary dermatologist is a qualified veterinary surgeon who has gone through all of the same general training, examinations and certifications that vets in the UK need to be permitted to practice.
After qualification, many vets choose to specialise in a certain specific field (like veterinary dermatology) and over the course of their careers, work to gain a significant amount of experience within this field. This includes further study, professional development and potentially qualifications, training under recognised experts in the field, and working in specialist clinics with more complex and advanced machinery and equipment that is used for special purposes, and which are not present within most general veterinary clinics.
Veterinary dermatologists usually work out of specialist referral clinics that serve as veterinary hospitals able to offer complex care and treatment for a wide variety of complicated or uncommon conditions that general clinics don’t treat. However, some veterinary dermatologists will work out of their own independent clinics instead, or one that specialises only in skin issues in dogs and other pets.
Veterinary dermatologists will have an advanced knowledge and understanding of the dog’s skin and skin problems, as well as disorders of the ears, nails, fur and mouth. They will also tend to be highly experienced in tackling skin diseases and allergies, including diagnosing such issues and finding their root cause.
Most skin issues in dogs (particularly minor ones and ones that are very common) can be treated or managed under the supervision of your local veterinary clinic, but they may call in a veterinary dermatologist if they cannot reach a definitive diagnosis, treatment is proving ineffective or not following the desired course of progression, or if the condition in question is rare or challenging to treat.
This means that dogs with even common and minor skin issues may benefit from being seen by a veterinary dermatologist, including things like allergies, alopecia, hot spots, and chronic or recurrent skin infections.
If you have questions or concerns about your dog’s skin or a skin condition, your own local vet should be your first port of call as many conditions can be diagnosed and treated or managed relatively easily.
If you are not sure about your dog’s skin condition or the treatment they are receiving, the next step will usually be to ask for a second opinion from another clinician at the practice, or another unrelated clinic if you prefer.
However, you can also ask your vet to refer you to a veterinary dermatologist if you prefer to do this. Your vet may also suggest this if the condition is complex, not responding to treatment, worsening, or needs a type of treatment or diagnostic procedure that is not offered at their own clinic.
You can also self-refer to some veterinary dermatologists, although you should check whether this is possible on a case-by-case basis, as some specialist referral clinics only accept referrals from other veterinary professionals.