As a veterinary technician, the vital role you play with dermatology patients cannot be emphasized enough. Obtaining an accurate history and performing diagnostic procedures correctly are extremely important. Educating clients is crucial to improving compliance. These fundamental elements are essential for the successful management of patients with dermatologic conditions.
1. Take a thorough history.
- Create a dermatologic history questionnaire for clients to complete.
- Take note of the patient's breed and age, which can give you clues to likely conditions.
- Ask direct questions, such as:
—Is the pet itchy?
—When did you first notice the problem, and how has it changed over time?
—Do you notice the problem seasonally?
—What treatments have you tried?
—What is the pet's diet, including treats?
—Are other pets showing similar signs?
—Are any people in the household affected?
- Learn to ask the same question in different ways. For example, if a client says his dog is not itchy but its paws are red, ask if he's ever seen the dog licking its paws. Then inquire about how often this occurs and the intensity.
- A thorough history can help you determine what diagnostic tests to perform.
2. Perform appropriate dermatologic procedures to confirm the presence of ectoparasites.
- Flea comb to identify adult fleas and flea dirt
- Ear canal examination, swab, and cytology for yeast, bacteria, or mites
- Skin scraping for Sarcoptes, Demodex, or Cheyletiella
- Fecal flotation for Cheyletiella if skin scrapings are negative
- Trichogram for lice eggs, Cheyletiella eggs, or Demodex mites
- Skin punch biopsies.
3. Educate clients to improve compliance.
Explain that prevention is usually less expensive for clients than treatment of the primary condition and secondary complications.
- Explain the pet's condition and flea life cycle.
- Demonstrate how to apply all medications.
- Show clients how to clean the ears properly.
- Create handouts for specific conditions and give these to owners as take-home references.
- Emphasize the expectations of treatment.
- Stress the importance of rechecks.
- Mention that additional diagnostic tests or a referral to a dermatologist may be indicated.