Veterinary practices offer a variety of different services, from MRI scans to CT scans and from Oncology to Orthopaedics. However, what about dermatology? Let’s have a look at what dermatology is and whether it’s an important service that a veterinary practice should offer to its clients.

What is dermatology?

Dermatology can be split into two separate words. ‘Derm’ which relates to the skin and ‘ology’ meaning ‘the study of’. Put the two words together and voila! You have the study of skin. Dermatology can cover both medical and surgical skin cases where different diseases and ailments can be treated accordingly. 

Some practices may have a veterinary surgeon who has a certificate in dermatology. This will allow certain complex skin cases to be treated at the veterinary practice, rather than being referred to a specialist. 

It is important to keep in mind that whilst some practices may have a vet who specialises in dermatology, in other cases you may need to be referred to a specialised dermatologist. Being referred allows you to receive the best possible treatment for your animal in cases where it is not possible to treat them at your own veterinary practice.

What cases come under dermatology?

There are many conditions and treatments that come under the term ‘dermatology’, whether this is at a first opinion- or a referral veterinary practice. Let’s have a look at some common skin cases which come under the dermatology umbrella. 

Allergic skin disease (atopy)

Both dogs and cats can suffer from allergies and the symptoms often present on the animal’s skin. An allergy can be defined as an oversensitivity to different stimuli such as pollen, grass and food. Skin allergies are one of the most common causes of itchy skin in dogs and cats. Symptoms include:

  • Itching
  • Rashes
  • Skin redness
  • Overgrooming
  • Moist areas of the skin

Skin infections

Skin infections can be a common ailment that dogs and cats can suffer from. This is often caused by bacteria or yeast found within the animal’s skin or coat. Skin infections can range from mild to severe, with some animals having repeated problems with their skin throughout their lives. Symptoms include:

  • Red, circular patches on the skin
  • A strong, pungent smell coming from the skin
  • Greasy coat
  • Sour smell to the coat
  • Hair loss 

Ear conditions

Some patients can suffer from mild to severe ear conditions, which are treated under dermatology. Ear infections can be caused by a variety of different stimuli and sometimes it can be tricky to find the cause of the infection. In some cases, a swab may need to be taken to identify the cause of the infection. Symptoms can include:

  • Foul smell from the ears
  • Aural discharge
  • Dry, crusted skin
  • Head shaking
  • Swelling of the internal or external ear

How to find a dermatology vet

If your vets do not offer a dermatology service, then do not panic! If your pet needs dermatology treatment and it is not offered at your current practice, your veterinary surgeon will be able to organise a referral for you. 

In most cases, there will be a local vet who will be able to treat the skin condition for your pet. If your pet needs specialised treatment, then be prepared to travel further afield. 

Final thoughts on dermatology

Whilst it may be beneficial for a practice to offer a dermatology service, it does not make or break choosing a veterinary practice. There may be other services provided by the veterinary practice that will benefit you and your animal more. No veterinary practice will be able to offer all treatment options available, so in some cases travel to a referral or alternative practice may be required.

If you are worried about your pet’s skin, always seek veterinary advice.

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