Nicky, our skin vet, headed to Birmingham in early April to learn 

about all the latest science behind diagnosing and treating

treating skin disease

Early in April, Nicky had the privilege of spending a day with fellow dermatology vets at the British Veterinary Dermatology Study Group (BVDSG) Spring Meeting in Birmingham. The BVDSG was formed in 1976 and membership is open to any veterinary surgeon with an interest in dermatology. The Group’s aims are to study and advance the standards of veterinary dermatology in all animals and it is very successful in doing just that.

Our Spring Meeting this year was entitled ‘Interactive Cases-Therapeutic dilemmas, Dermatology on a Shoestring, Fashionable dog breeds and Challenging feline cases’. The BVDSG welcomed world renowned dermatology experts Filippo de Bellis, Sonya Bettenay and Peter Forsythe as speakers.

Filippo and Peter took the delegates through some interesting case scenarios allowing time for them to consider and discuss diagnostic tests and treatment options.  It is this opportunity to meet and discuss with colleagues that helps keep Nicky a step ahead when it comes treating the many types of skin cases that she deals with.

Sonya then took to the stand, discussing allergies.  She reminded all the vets that the diagnosis of atopic (allergic) disease is made only once all other causes of itching have been investigated.  It is really important that especially ectoparasites (fleas, mites…) and infections have been considered before proceeding with the ‘allergy work up’.  It is sometimes tempting to jump to a diagnosis of allergies when presented with a really itchy dog or cat.  But often there can be other causes so Nicky will always check for those first.  

That said, there are some classical clinical clues that make the diagnosis of allergic disease more likely in dogs.  These include a history of recurrent ear or skin infections, affected areas including paws, underside of the tummy (ventrum), and ears and face.  An age onset of 1-3 years can also be a clue to a possible allergy problem.

Some breeds have a higher risk of developing allergic disease and different breeds are known to have different sites of the body that are likely to be affected (predilections).  Indeed clinical signs can even vary with the geographical location due to the different genetics of the dogs!  Allergy work ups can include specialised intradermal skin testing or blood testing for allergen-specific Immunoglobulin E.  But they are only useful in checking whether allergens can be avoided, or which ones should be selected for the allergy vaccines

It is important not to focus just on dogs as cats too can suffer with skin problems and some of these can be due to allergies.  There is less information available in cats but allergy is known to have 4 set reaction patterns in the skin which require further diagnostic tests to work out the cause.    

Sonya later lectured on some of the myriad of varying skin diseases seen in different canine breeds  Anyone with Labradors might be interested in a problem called nasal parakeratosis.  This is a condition found in young Labradors and is hereditary.  The good news is that there is now an official UK Kennel Club DNA testing Scheme.  If you would like further information on this then Nicky would be happy to chat this through with you.


In between lectures Nicky had time to visit the conference exhibition.  This provided her with the opportunity to learn about new and different therapeutic products available to help diagnose and treat skin and ear problems.  As antibiotic bacterial resistance is an increasing problem, she was particularly interested in a new pre-treatment ear flush that will be useful when resistant bacteria have been identified on ear swab cultures.  

Nicky will be sharing some of knowledge and experience of the day with the veterinary team back home.  But most importantly she will be able to share this knowledge with her skin clients and their pets.  If you have any ongoing worries about your pet’s skin or ears then please consider getting some extra help from Nicky.