“Pet owners often come in expecting a cure. Unfortunately, there is no cure for many for these issues – they are lifelong issues, but there are ways to manage the symptoms and provide a great quality of life. This is why I’m here – why I focus on Dermatology.” – Matthew Levinson, DVM, DACVD
Dr. Matthew Levinson is a board-certified veterinary dermatologist at BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital in Northfield, IL. He provides exceptional dermatological care for pets in Northfield, Chicago and the north Chicago suburbs.
In veterinary medicine, the Dermatology specialty covers a range of skin, hair, nail and ear problems in pets, from allergies to chronic ear infections.
Dr. Levinson’s areas of special interest include:
Skin issues due to allergies are very common in cats and dogs – and just like with humans, it can be tricky to diagnose and treat. Allergies in pets are usually caused by either one or a combination of three factors: the environment, flea bites, and certain ingredients in food.
Allergies often present the same symptoms as skin infections, making it difficult to distinguish between the two based on examination alone. To determine whether or not a cat or dog is experiencing skin issues due to allergies, Dr. Levinson may perform various diagnostic tests for other possible causes, such as sarcoptic mange (scabies), ringworm, bacterial infections and yeast dermatitis (malassezia).
After ruling out other causes, Dr. Levinson uses a procedure known as intradermal allergy testing to determine the allergen affecting the pet so he can develop a specific treatment plan to help manage the symptoms. This is the same test used to detect airborne allergies in humans and involves injecting tiny amounts of allergens under the skin to evaluate reactions and determine the culprit.
Dr. Levinson can then use the allergen to formulate an oral or injectable vaccine to stimulate the immune system and desensitize the allergen. This method is known as allergen specific immunotherapy (ASIT) and is the only method currently available to help improve the immune systems of pets with allergies.
An autoimmune disease is a condition in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells. Pets can suffer from many of the same autoimmune diseases as humans, such as lupus and immune-mediated polyarthritis. One of the most common autoimmune diseases Dr. Levinson encounters is known as Autoimmune Skin Disease (AISD).
With this condition, the animal’s body sees its own skin as foreign, resulting in skin lesions or ulcers that first appear as red spots and rapidly form into blisters and pustules (pimples) before crusting over. Since AISD can be mistaken for other skin diseases, several tests are needed for an accurate diagnosis, including blood tests, skin cultures and biopsies.
Treatment for AISD involves the use of different immunosuppressive medications, as well as initial and periodic blood panels throughout treatment to monitor for adverse side effects. Unfortunately, pets diagnosed with AISD must be treated for life, however, it can be controlled with only occasional flare-ups in most cases.
Papilloma virus, also known as the “wart” virus, is a skin condition that affects both cats and dogs. This condition causes viral papillomas (small, benign tumors) to form on the skin, usually appearing as inflamed polyps that break open and bleed. In some cases, viral papillomas can grow inward as hard, sometimes painful, masses that appear flat and scaly on the surface.
To remove viral papillomas in dogs and cats, Dr. Levinson uses a procedure called cryotherapy, which involves using extreme cold temperatures (such as liquid nitrogen) to destroy or freeze off abnormal or diseased tissue.
Ear infections are quite common among both cats and dogs, but are especially common in floppy-eared and hairy-eared dog breeds.
Yeast and bacteria are the most common causes of ear infections in pets and are generally due to underlying factors such as allergies, trauma and foreign objects in the canal.
Untreated ear infections can lead to chronic otitis, an extended ear infection that causes painful, itchy and smelly ears. This condition can affect the outer ear (otitis externa), the middle ear (otitis media), and the inner ear (otitis interna) in severe cases.
When left untreated, chronic otitis can result in:
When diagnosing ear infections and/or chronic otitis, Dr. Levinson first examines the ears for any visual redness, swelling or discharge. He also uses advanced ear imaging such as videoscopy to get a closer look at the middle ear and eardrum. He may also take culture samples, in addition to CT imaging and biopsies in severe chronic cases.
In addition to his special areas of interest, Dr. Levinson also treats other common dermatological issues, including:
For more on skin and ear issues that may require a visit to Dr. Levinson, check out these articles in our Medical Library for Pet Owners:
Dr. Levinson is on a mission to help pet owners find the best options for treating skin and ear problems in their pets. These ailments are often misunderstood and misdiagnosed, which underscores the importance of the Dermatology specialty in veterinary medicine.
Dr. Levinson believes building partnerships with his clients is the first step to providing the best treatment options for their pets, as managing life-long symptoms requires a team effort, These partnerships also give him the opportunity to educate pet owners about the various skin and ear issues that can affect their pets, while also dispelling any myths so they can successfully manage symptoms and improve their pets’ quality of life.
“One of the most important aspects of my job is the partnerships I build with my clients. Many of the dermatological issues that affect pets come with life-long symptoms, and managing these symptoms requires a team effort.”
– Matthew Levinson, DVM, DACVD, BluePearl Pet Hospital Northfield, IL
While studying economics and finance as an undergrad, Dr. Levinson adopted an English bulldog who happened to come with a lot of skin issues. His determination in finding a treatment to help ease his dog’s symptoms sparked his interest in veterinary medicine and the Dermatology specialty.
After completing his Bachelor of Arts in Economics at Indiana University, Dr. Levinson went on to complete his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at Oklahoma State University. He then completed an internship in Small Animal Medicine & Surgery at BluePearl in Northfield, IL, followed by a residency at Animal Dermatology Clinic in Tustin, CA.
Dr. Levinson is also a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Dermatology and has published several articles.
Located at BluePearl Specialty & Emergency Pet Hospital in Northfield, Dr. Levinson offers veterinary dermatology for pets in the greater Chicago area. He partners with primary veterinarians across the northern Illinois community to develop comprehensive treatment plans for pets with serious and chronic skin conditions.
When not helping pet owners find the best solutions for their pets’ skin and ear issues, Dr. Levinson enjoys attending Cubs games, playing basketball and being outside with his two dogs, Willow and Romeo.