The veterinary dermatologist Sue Paterson has launched Virtual Vet Derms, an online advice service which aims to give general practitioners the advice they need to manage cases within their own practice, without the need for referral.

Virtual Vet Derms has been set up to be able to give advice to veterinary surgeons on any aspect of skin or ear disease whether it is allergy, otitis media, cutaneous neoplasia or endocrine-based in any species, including dogs, cats, small furries, exotic pets including raptors, birds and reptiles, horses, camelids, zoo and farm animals. 

Sue, herself an RCVS Recognised Specialist in Veterinary Dermatology, is supported by a team of veterinary dermatology colleagues as well as veterinary specialists in exotic medicine, internal medicine (including endocrinology) and consultants with expertise in oncology. 

Sue said: "We recognise that not every veterinarian has got access to a local dermatology specialist and that not all clients can or want to travel to a referral centre. The aim of the service is to formalise the advice that dermatology clinicians give to veterinary surgeons to allow them to get detailed help to manage difficult or challenging dermatology cases within their own practice."

The service has been set up under the RCVS Vivet initiative, is approved by all of the major insurance companies and supported with Veterinary Defence Society Insurance cover. 

Virtual Vet Derms offers support in a range of ways. 

  • Quick questions
    Short questions that veterinary surgeons can submit via the online form on the Virtual Vet Derms website that just require a brief reply. This may be a dose of a drug, a parasite you want identifying, or the interpretation of a blood sample such as an ACTH stimulation test.

  • Veterinary reports
    Veterinary surgeons can use online request forms on the Virtual Vet Derms web site to submit a brief history of the animal and the problem and some good quality photos of the skin condition. There is also the ability to upload histopathology reports, blood samples and any other pertinent information. A detailed written report is sent back to the vet within 48 hours which will describe clinical signs, differential diagnoses, recommended diagnostic tests and treatment option where appropriate. Where possible, Virtual Vet Derms aims to pass the advice request to the nearest dermatologist but vets can ask for advice from any of its specialists. 

  • Telemedicine consultations
    For new cases or for cases where initial advice has been sought, in the client's own primary care veterinary practice via the internet. The Virtual Vets Derms specialist can consult with the owner to provide even more specific advice and support. After each teleconsultation the Virtual Vet Derms specialist will produce a report in the same format as the veterinary report to allow the primary care veterinary surgeon to continue to manage the case more effectively. 

  • Face to face consultations
    Can also be arranged via the owner’s vet at the specialist's own practice if there is the need for more specialist investigation that may not be available in the primary care veterinary surgery. In these cases, the specialist will take on the direct care of the case and work with the owner and vet on the best course of action.

  • General advice 
    Also possible if the vet wishes to direct an owner straight to Virtual Vet Derms. 

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