Veterinary dermatology: from allergies to toenails.

Lately, you’ve noticed your four-legged companion has been scratching – a lot. He’s been scratching so much at night you won’t even let him in the bedroom anymore. On top of that, he’s started to smell bad. The bond between you and your pet is beginning to fray…

“If you find yourself saying, ‘Stop it!’ constantly because your pet is scratching or licking a lot, it’s probably a good indication there’s something wrong,” says Dr. Laura Wilson, a board-certified dermatology specialist at BluePearl in Tampa.

In fact, you could have a dermatology problem on your hands. To discover the underlying issue, you should contact your family vet to get your pet checked out. If, after treatment from your vet, the symptoms don’t go away, you may be referred to a veterinary dermatologist.

Three vet techs stand in front of a radiation machine and one holds a cat.
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A veterinary dermatologist can help.

When humans have skin-related issues, they may seek help from a dermatologist. Pets can also benefit from seeing a specialist. Just like humans, pets can suffer from allergies, ear infections, skin conditions and other related issues. Veterinary dermatologists specialize in the treatment of skin, hair, nail and ear problems in pets. Allergies are often the underlying cause of these problems. Check out this video to see how dermatologists find out exactly what your pet is allergic to so they can make custom-made vaccines unique to your pet’s allergies.

Don’t let your pet suffer too long; ask your primary care vet if specialty services are available in your area.

BluePearl dermatology specialists.

Most BluePearl veterinary dermatology specialists are board-certified, so they’ve had years of training in this field. They can use many different diagnostic tests to pinpoint a problem. When it comes to dermatology, they have the experience to recognize and treat most issues.

You should be aware that, often, the dermatology issues that pets face don’t have quick fixes. Much like with humans, it’s more about managing the condition. But, the first step is to see a veterinary dermatologist for an examination.

A veterinarian and a vet tech examine a golden retriever in the dermatology service at BluePearl in Port Washington.

What to expect at your initial visit.

When you bring your pet in for an initial visit, you’ll be asked to fill out a form that will tell the doctor about your pet’s history. The dermatologist will review this information with you and discuss any previous treatments that have been tried. Then, armed with that information and the results of the physical exam, they will develop appropriate treatment options.

Common dermatological issues:

My dog smells really bad. Is that normal?

A smelly dog is usually a sign of some sort of infection. A veterinary dermatologist can examine your dog to diagnose whether it is from an allergy or something more serious like cancer or an auto-immune disease.

“We start by treating the infection, but that usually won’t fix the underlying problem,” says Dr. Wilson. “From there, it depends on how severe the symptoms are and how difficult it is to get to the heart of the problem.”


My dog won’t stop scratching!

Dog allergies are quite common, but they can be troublesome for both pets and owners. A lot of times pet owners notice scratching or excessive licking. If they’re scratching, licking, rolling, scooting to the degree that the owner notices it, it could be a problem.

Dogs suffering from allergies can also be whiny and scratch itchy skin to the point that neither they, nor their owners, get much sleep.

The first step is to treat the symptoms and stop the itching. Next, is to try an allergy medication. If that doesn’t work to control your dog’s allergies, the dermatology specialist will conduct allergy testing to discover what is actually triggering your dog’s symptoms.

Some BluePearl Pet Hospital locations offer intradermal (meaning “into the skin”) allergy testing that injects tiny amounts of allergens under the skin just like in human allergy testing. This method provides up to five times more information than standard blood allergy testing.


My dog keeps tilting his head and pawing at his ear!

If your dog is pawing at his head or is tilting or shaking his head a lot, it could be a sign of an ear infection. Believe it or not, this is a condition that veterinary dermatologists treat frequently.

“The ear canal is lined by skin so it doesn’t surprise us when a dog with flaring allergy symptoms also suffers from an ear infection,” Dr. Wilson says.

A collection of material from the ear, looked at under a microscope, can help identify which bacteria are present. Then, the dermatologist can prescribe an appropriate antibiotic. Ear flushes or oral pain medications may also be prescribed.

Ear infections are often a symptom of another underlying problem, so it’s important to address the allergy or other root problem to fully resolve the issue. Dermatologists use tools like a video otoscope to look deep inside the ear. Check out this video to see what this looks like.

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Other conditions we treat:

  • Allergies
  • Autoimmune diseases, like lupus and pemphigus
  • Chronic ear infections and inflammation
  • Cysts and skin tumors
  • Hormone-related skin diseases
  • Hot spots
  • Nutrition-related skin problems
  • Skin cancer
  • Skin parasites
  • Toenail problems

Love snuggling your pet again.

When you’re dealing with a cat that is constantly sneezing or a dog that has a strong odor and can’t find any answers, it can damage the bond between human and pet.

“I think it can be frustrating. Allergies specifically. With dog itching, they scratch, they shed and they can look horrible. The owners are trying, but it’s not getting better. It’s financial, it’s emotional and it’s frustrating,” says Dr. Wilson. “Sometimes what looks horrible is easily treatable. A lot of people think it’s really expensive, but sometimes we can find a very direct treatment plan that’s very affordable.”

These dermatological issues are some of the most common reasons that pets are sent to shelters. Before you do that, see a dermatologist. We want to restore that human-to-pet bond.

Ask your family vet if there is a dermatology specialist in your area or contact your closest 24-hour BluePearl pet hospital. The right diagnosis and treatment can make all the difference and you can love snuggling with your pet again.

A yellow lab lays under a blue blanket next to a blonde woman.
A dermatologist and vet tech check a dog's ear.

Find your nearest dermatologist.

We have over 100 specialty and emergency pet hospitals throughout the country.

Not all services are available in all BluePearl hospitals. Contact your local BluePearl for services available at that location.