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Skin disorders like atopic dermatitis and ringworm can affect every member of the family — including Fido. Fortunately for both people and pooches, the persistent itch and other troublesome symptoms of these skin conditions can be treated. Moreover, as researchers learn more about how certain treatments benefit pets, they’re gathering valuable knowledge that could benefit human patients.
“Dermatologists, veterinarians and scientists can learn a lot from one another,” says board-certified dermatologist Jennifer Gardner, MD, FAAD, an assistant professor of dermatology at University of Washington in Seattle and a collaborating member at the UW Center for One Health Research. “When we work together and share our expertise, it can improve the health of humans and animals alike, as well as the health of the environment they share.”
The roots of the One Health movement, which aims to explore the links between humans, animals and the environment, extend back to the days when a single doctor cared for all members of a household, both human and animal, Dr. Gardner says. Although medicine grew more specialized over the years, she says, the idea of collaboration across different medical and scientific disciplines has gained momentum over the past decade.
“We humans don’t exist in a bubble,” Dr. Gardner says. “We’re all interconnected with our environment and the other species that share that environment, so it just makes sense that we can learn from them.”
According to Dr. Gardner, the way diseases affect animals in their natural environment could provide valuable information that could be utilized to treat the same diseases when they occur in humans. She says this is especially true for animals that share a household environment with people, like domestic dogs.
For example, Dr. Gardner says, researchers have put a lot of effort into developing systemic and immune-based treatments for canine atopic dermatitis, since the use of topical treatments is limited in patients with fur. Down the line, the results of this work could affect the way dermatologists treat atopic dermatitis in human patients, she says.
Additionally, although the microscopic mites that live on the skin vary from species to species, they behave in similar ways, Dr. Gardner says, so studying mites in animals could be useful in treating mite-related human conditions, such as rosacea and hair loss. One Health research also can help shed light on which conditions can be transferred from animals to humans and vice versa — and which ones can’t.
“If your dog has a skin condition, you may unnecessarily avoid her because you’re afraid you could catch what she has, and this can interfere with the mutually beneficial human-animal bond,” Dr. Gardner says. “By collaborating with our veterinary colleagues, however, dermatologists can help you understand what’s going on with your pet, whether it can affect you and how you can ensure the health of everyone in your household, both people and animals.”
“When different specialists work together, the benefits are evident across all their fields,” Dr. Gardner adds. “In learning from other physicians and scientists, dermatologists can build on their own expertise to provide the best possible treatment for their patients.”
About the AAD
Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 19,000 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the AAD at (888) 462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow the AAD on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology), Twitter (@AADskin) or YouTube (AcademyofDermatology).