Did you know that dermatology is one of the specialties that general practitioners refer their patients to the least? I learned this fact today while on dermatology rotation and found it incredibly surprising. With autoimmune diseases and allergies becoming more prevalent, I assumed that more vets would be referring their patients to dermatologists. I can speculate a few reasons why vets wouldn’t want to refer–due to cost and the ability to treat common diseases on their own.
One of the common misconceptions is that sending your patient to a referral clinic costs the client more money. This is not necessarily true in the long run. Veterinary dermatologists treat complicated skin cases on a daily basis and are the foremost experts. Their goal is always to manage the skin condition as quickly as possible. They want to ensure the patient’s level of comfort, quality of life, and to reduce the stress on the owner. So, when clients are facing unsuccessful treatments at their general vet, they are often shelling out more money in the long term. This is because many skin conditions are chronic/life-long conditions. Many of them are manageable but not curable. Clients will find themselves constantly visiting the veterinarian for these conditions, especially when it comes to allergies. By sending them to an expert off the bat, the client ends up saving more money (because the treatments tend to be more successful) and the patient’s quality of life is improved more quickly.
While I have no doubt in my mind that general practitioners are capable of treating common skin conditions, I think sometimes it is best to let the experts take the reins, at least for the benefit of the clients and their pets.