Q: First off, what makes a veterinary dermatologist different from a general Veterinarian?
A: Veterinary dermatologists complete three years of additional training conducted at a residency program approved by the American College of Veterinary Dermatology. To get board-certified status, the candidate must also publish a peer reviewed scientific article relevant to our field, as well as pass a rigorous examination. Veterinary dermatologists are experts in skin and ear conditions as well as allergy. General veterinarians are responsible for a huge breadth of knowledge. They truly are superheroes! Dermatologists work with your veterinarian to get the best outcomes for your pet.
Q: Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a veterinary dermatologist and what motivated you to specialize in this field?
A: I didn't consider dermatology as a career path for me until my clinical rotation at Colorado State University with Rod Rosychuk. Prior to this I knew I loved immunology, microbiology, and pathology. Derm not only brings this together, but we also develop longer term relationships with our clients and patients. After my residency at The Ohio State, and a couple of years in practice in Louisville, KY, I came back to work with Dr. Rosychuk as a fellow faculty member for 10 years, supporting students and residents in their pursuit of dermatology training. I am continually motivated to eliminate suffering of pets and their people as well as help vets become more confident in their dermatology skills.
Q: What is your overall approach or philosophy on how dog owners can best care for their dogs' skin health, both in terms of preventative measures and addressing skin issues when they arise?
A: A relationship with a veterinarian is key in the overall health of your dog. Find a vet you trust. A good quality diet is key in supplying the nutrition necessary for healthy skin and coat. Examination of the skin, and routine bathing and grooming with gentle moisturizing products go a long way in helping you identify skin problems early and also supports the natural defenses of your dog's skin. Discuss ectoparasite control with your vet. Identifying the cause of skin problems, and managing them earlier in life will maximize the comfort and health of your dog. There's a lot of temptation to reach for at-home cures for skin itch. If the redness/itch is worsening, don't delay in seeking veterinary care. ACVD.org can help you find a veterinary dermatologist in your area.
Q: What were some of the main goals when formulating Floof’s Gentle Essentials line (Nourishing Dog Shampoo, Nourishing Dog Conditioner, Soothing Cream, Renewing Dog Wipes)?
A: Your dog's skin health is the top priority. Scientifically proven ingredients, such as oatmeal, chamomile, and manuka honey, enhance the skin's moisture, natural defenses and reduce mild inflammation. The ingredients we selected and intention behind them make Floof's Gentle Essentials unique.
Q: What is the most common misconception that pet owners have about their pet's skin health, and how can they prevent or address it?
A: Patients that I treat with allergy have typically had multiple diet changes, multiple antihistamine trials, and have received multiple supplements and topical treatments. I grant you that some dogs may respond to these approaches, but many more dogs do not. Rather than continuing along those lines, pursue the underlying cause with your general veterinarian or a veterinary dermatologist. Allergy, which is the most common skin problem, tends to get worse and more difficult to treat over time. The earlier we can get to the bottom of it, the better the outcome. Once we get that allergy and the infections under control, I recommend regular use of a gentle moisturizing skin products to support skin health.
The best prevention is to optimize skin health with flea/tick/mite control, a good quality diet, gentle grooming practice to optimize the skin's natural barrier and defenses,. Despite this, dogs may go on to develop skin problems, most commonly allergies. That doesn't mean you did anything wrong, but identification of the allergy triggers and treatment for the inflammation, and secondary infections earlier in life will mean less suffering and fewer itch crises.
Q: Can you share a fun or heartwarming story from your experiences treating patients?
A: The suffering of dogs with skin and ear issues and the suffering their people endure in trying to help them is sadly underestimated. The most satisfying feeling for me is restoring the quality of life for my patients- taking them from scratching all night, severe skin sores and infections to a dog who can rest, play and enjoy life again. I love helping clients and veterinarians achieve these outcomes, and gladly celebrate with hugs and tears of joy, and doggy kisses.
Most recently I treated a 10 month old pitbull puppy who had been itching since about 8 weeks of age at the time of his rescue. When I first saw him, he had failed treatment for fleas and mange, and had a multi-drug resistant staphylococcal infection. He had failed multiple diet changes and antihistamine trials. He even chewed the end of his tail off and was living in a cone collar. He had received antihistamines and prednisone with limited benefits and the prednisone made him eat a lot, pee a lot, and lose more hair. It was also very difficult to train him because he was so frantic, anxious and distracted with itch and his mom had no idea what training treats were okay.
Via a very specific change in diet, diligent application of a topical prescription antimicrobial and moisturizing treatment, as well as initial treatment with an injectable antibody treatment called Cytopoint we were able to get him living cone- free again. Now that we have identified food allergy, he is maintained very well with diet restriction alone and is living comfortably for the first time since 8 weeks of age. Sure enough when he gets into cat food, he flares up!
I believe that had his person had not been so diligent in pursuing care, he may have been euthanized because of this extreme suffering.
Q: Outside of work, what’s your favorite activity or hobby?
A: I enjoy nature including hiking, snowshoeing and looking for pictographs and wildlife.
Q: Finally, if you could communicate one message to pet owners about the importance of skin care for their pets, what would it be?
A: If any product claims to CURE allergy- beware!
Pay attention. If your dog's is licking, scratching, biting, chewing, rubbing or shaking their head, this is a sign of discomfort. If your dog's skin is red, smells bad, has hair loss, or scabs, I recommend veterinary attention.
There's a lot of temptation to reach for at-home cures for skin itch. If the redness/itch is worsening, don't delay in seeking veterinary care. ACVD.org can help you find a veterinary dermatologist in your area.