What does a veterinary dermatologist do?

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What is a Veterinary Dermatologist?

Veterinary dermatologists are specialized veterinarians with advanced training and expertise in diagnosing and treating skin, hair, nail, ear, and other related conditions in animals. With in-depth knowledge of the anatomy, physiology, and pathology of the skin in various animal species, these specialists focus on identifying and addressing a wide range of dermatological issues, which can range from allergies and infections to more complex autoimmune or genetic disorders.

What does a Veterinary Dermatologist do?

A veterinary dermatologist looking at a French Bulldog's inflamed paw.

Duties and Responsibilities
Here’s an overview of the duties and responsibilities of the veterinary dermatologist:

  • Patient Examination – conducting thorough physical examinations of animals to assess skin and coat conditions; gathering information on the animal's medical history, including previous skin issues, allergies, and medications
  • Diagnostic Procedures – performing and interpreting diagnostic tests such as skin scrapings, cytology, bacterial and fungal cultures, and allergy testing; utilizing advanced imaging techniques like dermatoscopy or skin biopsies for more complex cases
  • Diagnosis and Treatment Planning – diagnosing dermatological conditions such as allergies, infections, autoimmune disorders, and parasitic infestations; developing comprehensive treatment plans, which may include medications, topical therapies, dietary changes, or immunotherapy
  • Surgery – performing surgical procedures related to dermatology, such as biopsies, removal of skin tumors, or reconstructive surgery for trauma cases
  • Collaboration with Other Specialists – collaborating with other veterinary specialists, in areas such as internal medicine, oncology, and surgery, to address multi-systemic conditions or complex cases
  • Client Education – educating pet owners about their animal's dermatological condition, treatment options, and preventive measures; providing guidance on proper grooming practices and hygiene to manage and prevent skin issues
  • Record Keeping – maintaining detailed and accurate medical records for each patient, including diagnostic test results, treatment plans, and progress notes
  • Continuing Education – staying updated on the latest advancements in veterinary dermatology through attending conferences, workshops, and staying current with relevant literature
  • Teaching and Training – training and mentoring veterinary students, interns, and residents interested in dermatology; contributing to the education of general practitioners by providing lectures or workshops on dermatological topics
  • Research – engaging in research activities to contribute to the understanding of dermatological conditions in animals and the development of new treatment modalities
  • Networking – building and maintaining professional relationships with colleagues, referring veterinarians, and industry professionals to facilitate collaborative care

Types of Veterinary Dermatologists
Now that we have a sense of the potential scope of the veterinary dermatologist’s work, let’s look at some different types of veterinary dermatologists, based on their professional focus:

  • Small Animal Dermatologists – These veterinarians specialize in dermatology for domestic pets like dogs and cats.
  • Large Animal Dermatologists – Some veterinarians may focus on dermatological issues in large animals, including horses, cows, and other farm animals. The challenges and conditions in large animals can differ from those in small animals.
  • Exotic Animal Dermatologists – Veterinarians may specialize in dermatology for exotic or non-traditional pets, such as reptiles, birds, and small mammals. The skin conditions in these animals can be unique and require specialized knowledge.
  • Allergies and Immunology – Some veterinary dermatologists focus specifically on allergic skin diseases and immune-mediated conditions in animals. They may specialize in identifying and managing allergies to environmental factors, foods, or substances.
  • Infectious Diseases – Veterinarians may specialize in dermatological conditions caused by various infectious agents such as bacteria, fungi, and parasites.
  • Autoimmune Disorders – Veterinary dermatologists may specialize in autoimmune skin diseases, where the immune system mistakenly targets the body's own tissues. These specialists work on diagnosing and managing conditions like pemphigus, lupus, and other autoimmune dermatoses.
  • Oncodermatology – Some veterinary dermatologists may focus on skin cancers and tumors in animals. They specialize in diagnosing and treating dermatologic neoplasms, which may require surgery, radiation therapy, or other oncological interventions.
  • Research-Oriented Dermatologists – Some veterinary dermatologists may dedicate themselves to conducting research and participating in clinical trials, contributing to the understanding of skin diseases in animals and the development of new treatments or therapies.
  • Academic Dermatologists – Veterinary dermatologists working in academic institutions may combine clinical work with teaching veterinary students and conducting research in dermatology.

It should be noted that within the field of veterinary dermatology there is no formal system of sub-specialization. However, as they gain experience and handle diverse cases, veterinary dermatologists may develop areas of expertise and interest, such as those described above, and naturally gravitate toward certain aspects of the field.

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What is the workplace of a Veterinary Dermatologist like?

Veterinary dermatologists can work for various organizations and institutions, depending on their career goals and interests. The following are among their most common employers. Some veterinarians may have careers that combine work in more than one of these settings.

  • Private Veterinary Practices – Many veterinary dermatologists work in private practices, either as general practitioners with a focus on dermatology or in specialized dermatology clinics. These practices cater to pet owners seeking veterinary care for their animals.
  • Specialty Referral Hospitals – Large veterinary hospitals and clinics often have specialized departments or referral services, including dermatology. Veterinary dermatologists in these settings handle complex cases referred by general practitioners.
  • University Veterinary Hospitals – Veterinary dermatologists may be employed by universities and veterinary colleges. In addition to providing clinical services, they may be involved in teaching veterinary students and conducting research.
  • Research Institutions – Some veterinary dermatologists pursue careers in research institutions, conducting studies, experiments, and data analysis; publishing research papers; and participating in dermatology clinical trials.
  • Pharmaceutical Companies – Veterinary dermatologists may work for pharmaceutical companies that develop and manufacture medications and products related to dermatological care for animals. They may be involved in research and development or provide expertise in product development and marketing.
  • Industry and Corporate Positions – Veterinary dermatologists may find employment in various industry positions, including roles in pet food companies, pet care product manufacturers, or companies involved in animal health and wellness.
  • Government Agencies – In some cases, veterinary dermatologists may work for government agencies or departments related to animal health. They may contribute to public health initiatives, disease control programs, or regulatory efforts.

In summary, the workplace of a veterinary dermatologist is dynamic and may include clinical, teaching, and research components, depending on the specific role and setting. In clinical environments, dermatologists spend their time in examination rooms, offices, diagnostic imaging facilities, surgical suites, and recovery areas for post-operative care. Common academic setting workplaces include lecture halls, laboratories, and research laboratories.

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Veterinary Dermatologists are also known as:
Veterinary Dermatology Specialist Veterinary Skin Doctor