Your dermatology cases are more than skin deep


Dermatology cases make medical and financial sense as a focus for many veterinary hospitals.

Those folds might spell dermatology trouble, doc. ( of us can't wait to banish the cold weather for warmer climes. The rays of sunshine beam down on us, feeding the warmth of the earth. The vegetation all around us sprouts and blooms into new life. These environmental transitions draw us outdoors, but quickly we're reminded of the burdens that follow those changes when we see and hear the coughing, sneezing and itching of our beloved furry pets.

Environmental and food allergies seem to be extremely common in today's dogs and cats. In our day-to-day practice, we see these seasonal skin-related issues that can turn into a year-round problem if we don't take the steps to prevent exposure, manage symptoms and help pets develop resilient immune systems.

Dermatology is multifaceted: You can tap into pharmaceuticals, diets, diagnostics, alternative therapies and more to boost revenue and patient care. You could bring in potential earnings of $2,700 or more per allergic case per year, depending on your approach with clients and the pet owner's willingness to embrace treatment process.

More than skin deep

Let's break down what you could see in potential revenue based on averages from recommendations in your practice within a year for treating an allergic patient:

> Initial and progress exams: $200 (initial and average of six progress exams)

> Skin scraping, dermatophyte test medium and cytology: $140 (biannual review)

> Therapeutic foods: $480 (average $40/month)

> Pharmaceutical management: $1,200 (average $100/month)

> Allergy testing: $300 (initial testing)

> Immunotherapy support: $400 (average of three immunotherapy kits)

Here's how it works: Your exam and consultation are the driving force to educate clients about what they can expect during the next several months. Laying out your plan offers clients the opportunity to understand the process and prepare for what's to come. Progress exams are essential to treat allergic cases. So often pet owners stop using food trials and medicines, and you won't know this critical detail without rechecks.

Routine testing for mites, fungal and bacterial infections is easy and inexpensive to our bottom line and profitable for the practice. These tests allow us to confirm or rule out certain types of infections that could cause skin irritation.

Hypoallergenic food trials are another great way to rule out environmental causes versus food allergies, and it's a great way to move food inventory. Once you identify food allergies as a concern, you'll have a consistent stream of revenue from the pet's therapeutic diet.

Nowadays, there are several safe and available pharmaceuticals that offer anti-itch relief, but of course there are those occasions when antibiotics or corticosteroids are indicated. Monthly omegas and other medications to help with relief are recommended based on how well the pet avoids flare-ups.

Allergy testing is another great diagnostic tool. Outsourced laboratories can perform serum sample testing to help isolate allergen-specific antibodies that are present. Once completed, desensitizing immunotherapy injections can be engineered according to the pet's specific needs.

Allergies can spell misery for pets, which makes it a tough diagnosis for clients. Focus on offering clear client communication and a multi-pronged approach to diagnosis and treatment to boost the heath of your patients-and your bottom line.

Roger Zinn, CVPM, is ER Administrator and partner at Animal ER of Northwest Houston.

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