What is a Board Certified Specialist and what is a Veterinary Dermatologist?
A board certified veterinary specialist is a veterinarian with advanced training in a specific discipline in veterinary medicine. His or her knowledge and skills in this area have been evaluated and recognized by a specialty organization accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
The American College of Veterinary Dermatology (ACVD) is the international certifying organization for veterinary specialists in large, small, and exotic animal dermatology. These specialists are known as ACVD Diplomates. Dr. Flynn is one of only a few hundred ACVD Diplomates in the world.
A Dermatologist is a Diplomate of the ACVD who has completed 4 years of veterinary school, a postgraduate internship, and 2-3 years of a dermatology residency. The residency program includes extensive training in immunology, molecular biology, endocrinology, infectious disease, pharmacology, dermatopathology, along with species-specific training for diagnosis and care of dogs, cats, horses, and exotic animals in all areas of clinical diseases of the skin and ears. Throughout the training program, each specialty candidate is evaluated by supervising professors and specialists. Before recognition as a Diplomate of the ACVD, each candidate must publish a research project of their own design and completion in a nationally recognized scientific journal and present their research at a national meeting prior to completing a rigorous two-day examination process.
How is a Board-certified Veterinary Dermatologist different from my family veterinarian?
Board-certified Veterinary Specialists, including ACVD Diplomates, are similar to their human medical counterparts in that they have completed all the above training plus an internship and residency in their specialized field (an additional 3-5 years training). A Veterinary Dermatologist has a greater understanding of diseases of the skin and ears including allergies, metabolic, endocrine (hormonal), auto-immune, cancer and infectious diseases. This specialized training provides a Dermatologist with greater knowledge of diagnostic and treatment options especially for unusual, uncommon, or rare conditions. In addition, a Dermatologist has diagnostic equipment not generally used by your family veterinarian.
Why does my animal need to see a Board-certified Dermatologist?
General practitioners recognize the need for specialization and refer clients for a second opinion on difficult and unusual cases. Animals are also referred when the veterinarian realizes the diagnosis and/or treatment requires instrumentation and experience that is not generally available. Veterinary specialists act as an extension of the general practitioners practice by allowing them to increase the scope of their practice and what they offer their clients. Specialization in veterinary medicine allows pets to have access to advanced care and treatments similar to what is available in human medicine.
Dermatologists focus on diagnosing and treating diseases of the skin and ears. Many of skin diseases are difficult to treat and accurately diagnose. Examples of conditions for which your family veterinarian might refer your animal to an Internist are:
• Allergies – intradermal skin testing and immunotherapy is the gold standard for treating environmental allergies. Immunotherapy (aka “allergy shots” improves the condition in 85% of allergic dogs and cures 10%. Intradermal skin testing is the gold standard for determining the cause for dogs with environmental allergies.
• Ear infections – a video otoscopy, myringotomy and bullae (middle ear) irrigation is the gold standard for diagnosing and treating chronic and/or severe ear infections which often have middle ear infections as a component of the ear disease.
• Auto-immune diseases of the skin, ears and nails
• Parasitic diseases of the skin and ears
• Infectious diseases of the skin, hair, ears and nails
• Benign and malignant cancer of the skin, ears and nails
• Hormonal and metabolic imbalances which affect the skin, hair, ears and nails
What should I expect during a visit with a Dermatologist?
The Dermatologist will review information provided by you and your family veterinarian, perform a complete and thorough physical examination of your pet, and based on these initial findings, additional tests and care may be recommended. Depending on your pet’s condition, diagnostic testing or treatments may include:
• Advanced laboratory testing of various tissue and blood samples
• Diagnostic Imaging – ultrasound, radiography (x-rays), CT scans, MRIs
• Biopsies – skin, nails
• Video otoscopy, myringotomy and bullae irrigation – the use of a slender, tubular camera for non-invasive visual examination and sampling of the external and middle ear. Biopsies, cultures, cytology and thorough cleaning of the external and middle ear are performed when indicated.
• Intradermal skin testing: 48 allergens are injected in very small volumes under the skin to determine which environmental substances are responsible for a pet’s environmental allergies. This is done in order to formulate patient –specific immunotherapy.
• Immunotherapy formulation and preparation on site (also called “Allergy shots”)
When should I request a referral to a Veterinary Dermatologist?
• Your pet’s disease is uncommon, complicated, or undiagnosed after standard testing
• You would like an informed, neutral second opinion of your pet’s condition
• The outcomes of the current treatments are not going well or as expected
• Your pet requires a sophisticated procedure that is offered only by a specialty hospital
• Your pet can benefit from 24-hour monitoring provided by a referral hospital
If you believe your pet would benefit from a visit to a Veterinary Dermatologist, you are encouraged to work with your family veterinarian to complete a referral.
Will my family veterinarian still be involved after referral to a Dermatologist?
Your veterinarian is an important contributor to your pet’s health, even if help from a Dermatologist is required. The Dermatologist works as part of the team along with you and your family veterinarian to diagnose and treat your pet. Your family veterinarian will continue to supervise your pet’s routine care including vaccinations, parasite control, and annual examinations. In some cases, the Dermatologist may take over all care and diagnostics related to your pet’s dermatologic disease or condition. In most cases, however, your pet will receive coordinated care and diagnostic rechecks from both the Dermatologist and your family veterinarian. Communication among all team members is important so all aspects of care provided by the Dermatologist will be reported to your family veterinarian and you will be included in decisions regarding when and where follow-ups will be completed.