What is a veterinary dermatologist?

We are proud to acknowledge that our entire team of veterinarians at the Veterinary Dermatology Specialists are Registered Specialists in Veterinary Dermatology.

A veterinary dermatologist is a veterinarian who specialises in conditions involving the skin, ears, hair and nails/claws. A veterinary dermatologist is specially trained to identify and treat thousands of conditions in a wide-variety of animal species, of all ages. These conditions include various allergies, cancers, genetic, hormonal and auto-immune conditions amongst others.

The skin is the largest of the organs. It has a variety of functions and is importantly your pet’s first line of defence against disease. Aside from being a physical barrier, the skin also helps to regulate body temperature, detect sensation (pain, pressure, itch), assists with peripheral vasculature changes, serves a role in immune function, vitamin D synthesis and plays a role in immune function.

Veterinary dermatologists have extensive training. Animals visit a veterinary dermatologist for reasons that are much more than skin deep. Problems can affect the quality of both the animal’s life and/or their owners’ life. Some conditions make day-to-day activities difficult (e.g.  the owner is kept awake at night due to their pet constantly scratching) and can affect the human-animal bond. We aim to repair this.

If you watch a veterinary dermatologist at work on a given day they might:

  • Diagnose a food allergy and set-up a dietary plan for an owner whose dog has peri-anal itching and scoots on its bottom.
  • Interpret a CT scan of the middle ear and perform an otoendoscopic ear flush on a dog who suffers from chronic ear infections.
  • Start a dog on bee venom-immunotherapy to reduce the likelihood of fatal anaphylaxis if it were to be stung again by a bee.
  • Remove a squamous cell carcinoma from the tip of the ear of a white cat who liked to sun-bake
  • Treat a hormonal condition that has been causing hair-loss in an old dog

In order to gain the expertise needed to provide this level of care veterinary dermatologists must meet stringent requirements relating to qualifications, experience and training.

Before they can be recognised as a dermatologist they must:

  • Complete a Bachelor Degree to become a registered veterinarian (this takes 4-6 years)
  • +/- a 1 year internship
  • Complete the requirements of a 2-3 year residency program in veterinary dermatology
  • Pass the rigorous specialist examinations in veterinary dermatology

You can tell a veterinarian is a Specialist because they have additional letters after their name e.g.  FANZCVS (Fellow of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists) or Dip ACVD (Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Dermatology).

Typically a dermatologist’s business card and website should show you if the individual you are seeing is a qualified specialist. If in doubt, ask.

How do I know if the veterinarian I am seeing is a certified veterinary dermatologist?

The Veterinary Surgeons’ Board of WA lists the current registered specialists in WA. You can verify that you and your animal are receiving care from a registered specialist by clicking here.