The Role of Veterinary Dermatologists

Your vet knows a lot about everything, but sometimes you need someone with more in-depth knowledge to diagnose and manage allergies. So your vet might recommend that you visit a veterinary dermatologist.

Veterinary dermatologists can have a range of different qualifications. There are some details of the further study dermatologists in the UK might have below.

Please note that not all of these qualifications allow vets to call themselves ‘specialists’, as this requires approval from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. However, all vets with these qualifications have done significant extra study and may predominantly see skin cases. There is more information in the drop downs below.

CertAVP (SAD) – Certificate of Advanced Veterinary Practice in Small Animal Dermatology

Vets with a Certificate of Advanced Veterinary Practice in Small Animal Dermatology have undertaken significant extra training in skin diseases. They are considered ‘Advanced Practitioners’ but not ‘specialists’. They have:

  • Been working as a vet for at least three years.
  • Taken at least 2 modules (out of a total of 4) in dermatology whilst doing their certificate.
  • Passed an exam – normally orally but may include practical elements

Vets with the CertAVP (SAD) often work in general practice, but some may work in referral hospitals.

Your vet can refer you to a CertAVP (SAD) if you would like to see one.

PgC (SAD) – Postgraduate Certificate in Small Animal Dermatology

A postgraduate certificate means a vet has taken extensive extra training in an area, and are registered with the RCVS as ‘Advanced Practitioners’ but they are not considered ‘specialists’.

To get a PgC in dermatology, vets need to

  • Have been working as a vet for at least a year
  • Have undertaken a further 2-year, part time study in dermatology
  • Passed an examination

Vets with a PgC might work within general practice, or they may work at referral hospitals nearby. Some PgC vets visit several practices in an area on rotation, meaning they may even be available in your usual practice on occasion. If you think you would like your dog to see a PgC vet, talk to your vet who can prepare the referral paperwork.

DipECVD – Diplomat of the European College of Veterinary Dermatology

A vet who has undergone training and examination to become a DipECVD is allowed to call themselves a specialist in dermatology and are “board-certified”.

There are just over 20 vets in the UK with this qualification. On top of the normal veterinary degree, it requires:

  • An internship
  • Residency training (usually 3 years of dermatology-only work, under a board-certified specialist in dermatology)
  • Attending conferences in dermatology
  • Publishing research in dermatology
  • Lecturing veterinary students
  • A four-part, two-day examination

Diplomats are also re-evaluated every 5 years to make sure they still meet all these requirements.

Diplomats will usually work in referral practices, such as the practices run by veterinary schools or large multi-specialty referral practices. Your usual vet can refer you to a DipECVD at your request.

DipACVD – Diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Dermatology

A vet who has undergone training and examination to become a DipACVD is allowed to call themselves a specialist in dermatology and are “board-certified”.

There are around 5 vets in the UK with this qualification, as the equivalent ECVD certification above is preferred.

On top of the normal veterinary degree, it requires:

  • An internship (usually a year)
  • Residency training (usually 3 years of dermatology-only work, under a board-certified specialist in dermatology)
  • Attending conferences in dermatology
  • Publishing research in dermatology
  • An extensive examination covering all aspects of dermatology and related fields, such as oncology.

Diplomats will usually work in referral practices, such as the practices run by veterinary schools or large multi-specialty referral practices. Your usual vet can refer you to a DipACVD at your request.

DVD – Diploma in Veterinary Dermatology

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Diploma in Veterinary Dermatology is no longer available for new vets to take. However, some vets may still have this qualification, so we include it here.

This qualification grants RCVS ‘specialist’ status.

What to expect when seeing a dermatologist

If you’ve decided to go for referral to a dermatologist, you might be wondering what to expect.

Before your visit, your vet will send your pet’s notes and any lab results over to the dermatologist. This allows them to get a full background on your pet.

They’ll normally book a long appointment with you – half an hour or even over an hour, if your pet has a complicated history. A large part of this appointment will be talking about your pet – as we’ve said, what you see at home is so important for diagnosing and treating AD.

It might feel like they’re repeating things you’ve told your primary vet, but it’s important to answer as best you can so they can build a full picture. You might find it helpful to make notes about what has and hasn’t helped your pet (we have a printout in the treatment section that can help with this).

They may also need to repeat tests your vet has previously done, especially skin samples. This is to make sure nothing has changed since the last sample was taken.

They will usually then explain a plan, which may include coming in for sedation for further testing or trialling treatment and re-visiting in a few weeks.

Summary

Sometimes, seeing a veterinary dermatologist can be helpful for dogs with allergies. There are various qualifications a dermatologist can have in the UK, from ‘board-certified’ specialists at the top level to CertAVP and PgC ‘Advanced Practitioners’ at the lower levels. Your vet will need to refer you to these vets.

Key Takeaway

For complex allergy cases, referral to veterinary dermatologists should be considered.