Who can help me find answers for my dog’s chronic itchy skin?

Karen Helton Rhodes, DVM, DACVD                              Canine Skin Solutions, Inc.

Terri Bonenberger, DVM, DACVD                                   www.HealthySkin4Dogs.com 

Peeling the Onion

First, there are many diseases that can cause your dog to lick, bite, chew, scoot, and scratch!  Allergies, of course, being the one that immediately comes to mind and it is likely the most common.  That said, we cannot simply forget the other causes of intense itchy skin, such as scabies mites and even yeast infections.  Effectively treating skin disease is like “peeling an onion”.  You need to treat each “layer” of the problem in a systematic pattern in order to reach the underlying core.  Reaching the “core” will allow you to devise a plan to prevent recurrence.  All too often, dogs are treated with a “shot gun” approach or “poly-pharmacy” approach.  You receive a bag of medications or a variety of shots to treat all “potential” problems.  This technique is frustrating for you, the pet parent.  You might see immediate relief  BUT as soon as the meds have worn off……the problem returns!  You need to systematically “peel the onion”!

Specialist can Save You $ and Time

I often hear the comment that “specialists are expensive” and I cannot afford that level of medical care.  Examine your veterinary bills for the last few years as you battled a chronic and recurrent problem! A specialist is skilled at formulating a targeted plan to help you reach the core of the problem.  This plan helps eliminate repeated veterinary visits where you often receive the exact same medication time and again.  At the very least, you can hear all of your options for addressing the problem and make an educated decision regarding the plan best for your dog.


How Do I Find a Specialist?

Website:  Most specialty groups have a website that will direct you to the nearest doctor.  The veterinary dermatology group, American College of Veterinary Dermatology, has a website (www.ACVD.org) with a link called “find a dermatologist”.  You can search by state and you will see a complete listing of board certified veterinary dermatologists with phone numbers and addresses.


Letters:  Another technique is to look at the letters following the doctor’s name.  All specialists in the states will have the same letters after their veterinary suffix (DVM or VMD).  Those letters are DACV___ (Diplomate American College of Veterinary____). 

For example, a veterinary dermatologist will have the letters:  DVM, DACVD (“D” for dermatology).

 A veterinary surgeon will be identified as DACVS.  A veterinary ophthalmologist as DACVO. 

There are specialists for every branch of veterinary medicine! You must have a “C” for “college” in the lettering.  


A “B“ for “Board” is not the same level of specialty care.  (example, American Board of Veterinary Practitioners- ABVP) The same holds true for “Academy”, in which anyone can be a member for a fee.  An “academy” is more like a club or group with special interest. I am not implying that these individuals are not knowledgeableBut, if you are looking for a dermatology specialist….you need to look for the letters DACVD!

I found a Specialist…Now What?

Now that you have found a veterinary specialist in your area, compile all of your medical records to either send prior to your visit or bring with you at the time of the examination.  Oftentimes, the specialist can avoid repeating previous tests or medication trials based on data obtained from those records.  Don’t try to make your pet “presentable” by bathing or grooming prior to the visit.  Your dermatologists wants to see the whole ugly truth…..smell, crusts, grease, and all!  Those features are clues!

Don’t hold back any information!  Your specialist needs to know all medications or supplements your pet is receiving.  Vitamins, nutritional supplements, creams, ointments, lotions, sprays, ear medications, ear cleansers, behavioral therapy, vaccines, etc……..we need to know everything.  Many times, owners will fail to mention a holistic supplement.  For example, an “over the counter” supplement such as St. John’s Wort is sometimes used by pet parents to calm patients.  St. John’s Wort is the same ingredient as Prozac and can interact with other medications.  Your dermatologist needs ALL information.  

Follow Directions

Make sure you have asked all of your questions during the examination and that you thoroughly understand the instructions. Remember, we are “peeling the onion” and each step in the therapeutic protocol is important to understanding and formulating the next step!

Most specialists will send you home with written information…… so not to worry if you feel like you just experienced information overload during the visit.  Studies have shown that everyone (doctors included) remember about 30% of what is discussed during an office visit.  Reading materials and an educational website (such as www.HealthySkin4Dogs.com) will help compensate for that deficiency in memory!

If you are having difficulty administering the pills or cannot bathe as often as directed….let your doctor know.  That issue may alter the interpretation of the clinical results at your next visit. 


Ultimate Success

Chronic and recurrent skin diseases require a team approach:  you and your veterinary dermatologist!  The therapy must fit your dog and your lifestyle.  We understand that not everyone can effectively accomplish every desired task.  Your dermatologist can make recommendations and suggestions but YOU are the key to success.  Let’s get started and help your dog NOW!  An educated owner is an amazing healthcare provider!  Join Canine Skin Solutions Group for daily tips.  Follow our daily educational posts on the Canine Skin Solutions, Inc. Facebook page.

Also, opt in for our weekly educational newsletter.  Let us help you “unleash your dog’s healthy skin”!