Veterinary Dermatology Specialists

At Veterinary Dermatology Specialists, our goal is to provide Perth's surrounding population of referring veterinarians and their clients’ pets the highest specialised care in the areas of infectious, parasitic, allergic, autoimmune, hormonal and cancerous conditions in veterinary dermatology.

We believe that a key element to a healthy pet is a great relationship with their  veterinarian. We are committed to fostering professional, caring, personalized service with both our referring veterinarians and their clients. We take pride in our ability to provide the highest level of knowledge as well as offering the most current veterinary dermatology treatments.

The team at Veterinary Dermatology Specialists offers a variety of services including:
  • General physical and dermatological exam on all patients
  • Microscopic examinations (cytology)
  • Skin scrapings
  • Skin cultures
  • Fungal cultures
  • Biopsies (skin/nail/ear/mucous membrane)
  • Allergy testing
  • Allergy vaccine therapy
  • Bee and Wasp venom testing
  • Bee and Wasp venom desensitisation
  • Elimination diet trials
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans/ MRI for middle ear diseases
  • Deep ear cleanings under anaesthesia
  • Ear polyp/tumour removal
  • Phone consultations are available for our regional clients.

To make an appointment with the Veterinary Dermatology Specialists please call the clinic on 9204 0400. Please have your pet’s regular vet complete a referral form and forward your pets medical records via email or fax to us directly.

Immune Mediated Skin Disease

There are many different immune-mediated skin diseases that can affect dogs and cats. In many cases the clinical signs are severe. In order to treat such diseases, we need to suppress the immune system to bring the disease into remission. The immune system plays a vital role in the normal protective mechanism of the body. We therefore need to achieve a balance between suppressing the immune system sufficiently to control the disease and not suppress it too much to prevent the normal immunity against infection. A decision to use immunosuppressive therapy is made because the effects of the disease the pet has been diagnosed with are more severe than the potential adverse effects of the drugs. As many immune-mediated diseases have similar clinical signs, a diagnosis of the disease is important and this is usually obtained through skin biopsy and histopathology evaluation by a specialist veterinary pathologist. A treatment plan is formulated by the veterinary dermatologist that will involve close monitoring of the disease to achieve remission while ensuring there are no adverse effects to the selected drugs. This will achieve the required balance of suppression of the disease process while maintaining your pets health.
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Bee and wasp desensitization

Bees and wasps can cause life-threatening reactions in humans and animals. The symptoms of allergic reactions to stings can vary in dogs and range from generalised flushing, itching, redness, diffuse swelling (oedema) of the skin especially of the face or throat (larynx) or urticaria (hives), abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, faintness, blurring or loss of vision, respiratory difficulties (bronchospasm), seizures, respiratory or cardiac arrest and death. Systemic reactions can occur within seconds or minutes of the sting. In cases where a life-threatening allergic reaction has occurred following a sting or envenomation, diagnosis by allergy testing and venom immunotherapy are strongly recommended. In humans and veterinary medicine venom immunotherapy is an extremely effective treatment for preventing future reactions to stings. The Animal Dermatology Clinic has the facilities for both allergy testing and desensitization for bees and wasps.
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Ear infections

The Animal Dermatology Clinic provides advanced care for any case of acute, chronic or refractory ear disease with resistant bacterial infection or middle ear infection as well as tumours and polyps in the ear. We can perform specialised procedures such as a myringotomy or biopsy sampling of an underlying tumour or polyp in the external or middle ear using the video-otoendoscope. If required evaluation of the middle and external ear can be performed with imaging techniques such as a CT scan. What is video oto-endoscopy? Video otoscopy is performed using an oto-endoscope, camera, light source and monitor. The otoscope is attached to a miniature video camera which allows a brightly illuminated and magnified view of the inside of the external ear canal and ear drum and also permits flushing of the middle ear if the dog has middle ear infection. While the patient is anaesthetised the ears can be flushed, foreign objects, debris or parasites may be retrieved with grasping forceps. Biopsies samples obtained with biopsy forceps and a myringotomy (obtaining a sample from the middle ear through the ear drum) can also be performed when required. With an attachable dual port adaptor, suction and saline may be used simultaneously to completely clean the ear. This equipment allows us to thoroughly assess and treat chronic and difficult ear infections.
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Allergic skin disease

Allergy is a common cause of skin disease causing itchiness in dogs and cats. Atopic skin disease is one common type of allergy and a reaction by an individual animal to environmental aeroallergens such as pollens from grasses, weeds, trees, mould spores and house dust mite.

An adverse food reaction is a reaction by an individual to a particular food substance. The most common causes of adverse food reactions in dogs are caused by proteins and carbohydrates such as beef, mutton, chicken, wheat, corn, soy, dairy foods and eggs.

The most common causes of adverse food reactions in cats are fish, beef and dairy products.

Symptoms of allergy
  • The most common clinical sign of allergy is itching, most commonly involving the muzzle, around the eyes, ear flaps, armpits, groin and paws. Some dogs may have recurrent ear infections.
  • As a result of chewing, licking, rubbing and scratching the skin becomes inflamed and prone to secondary infections with bacteria and yeast. In dogs with chronic disease there is often hair loss and the skin becomes thickened, scaly and black.
  • The hair coat may feel greasy and be associated with an offensive odour. Occasionally dogs and cats with adverse food reactions may have loose stools or diarrhoea.

Diagnosing allergic skin disease

Intradermal allergy test:
  • The best way to identify a specific allergy to pollen, dust, mould or insects is to perform an intradermal allergy test.
  • This involves clipping a patch of hair from the side of the flank and pricking the skin with a tiny amount of purified allergen extract. A positive reaction is a raised swelling observed thirty minutes after intradermal injection.
  • The skin test is affected by a number of drugs including antihistamines and corticosteroids. As all cortisone tablets, injections, lotions, eye and ear drops interfere with the skin test, it is important that your pet is withdrawn from treatment prior to testing.
Serological (blood) allergy testing:
  • We perform serological (blood) allergy testing in dogs with pollen, mould and dust allergies in conjunction with skin testing.
  • We believe that by combining the results of the skin and serological testing that we can develop the most optimal allergy profile for your pet. This increases our chances of successful vaccine immunotherapy (desensitization).

Skin and blood testing are not useful for the diagnosis of adverse food reactions in dogs and cats. The diagnosis is made by an elimination diet trial which involves feeding a protein and/or carbohydrate source that your pet has not received before for a period of six weeks. The choice of diet is very important and the veterinary dermatologist can guide you with the appropriate diet selection.

Allergy treatments

There are several different ways allergy can be managed in order to keep your dog or cat comfortable.

Allergen specific immunotherapy with an allergy vaccine is the preferred method of treatment for canine and feline atopic dermatitis and involves using a vaccine that is made specifically for your pet on the basis of the skin and serum allergy test results.

It is important to remember that improvement with allergy vaccines is gradual with obvious benefit taking between six to twelve months to appear.

Dogs and cats with adverse food reactions must receive a modified special diet.

How successful are allergy vaccines?

Allergy vaccines are successful in approximately 70% of dogs and cats with environmental allergic skin disease.

The vaccine needs to be used for 12 months before we can evaluate whether is has been successful in reducing the itching.

If a dog or cat responds to the allergy vaccine then it will need to continue the vaccine for between three to five years. Some dogs and cats require allergy vaccine for a lifetime.

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Our Team


Fiona is both a Board-certified and Fellowship trained veterinary dermatologist. She is a founder and director of Veterinary Dermatology Specialists in Perth. Dr Fiona has practiced veterinary dermatology and consulted with clients and patients from all over Western Australia and Southern California, USA. She has treated exotic animals at Perth Zoo and an animal sanctuary in the Californian hills. Fiona has provided continuing education to primary care veterinarians throughout Western Australia and has taught the final year veterinary students at Murdoch University during their dermatology practical rotation. In 2019, Fiona was asked to lecture at the Australian Veterinary Association’s National Conference. Fiona graduated from Veterinary School at Murdoch University and won the Surgery Prize. She is the only Veterinary Dermatologist in Western Australia that has achieved both Diplomate status with the American College of Veterinary Dermatologists, and, Fellowship status with the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists.  She performed her internship at Perth Veterinary Specialists and between 2014-2017 she flew between California, USA and her home in Western Australia whilst she completed two residency programs. Fiona is a certified Fear Free Dermatologist- the Fear Free certification helps veterinary professionals to minimise fear, anxiety and stress on patients whilst in hospital and in turn enhances the quality of medicine and patient/owner experience. Get to know more about Dr Fiona: Where are you from? I’m a Perth native and despite travelling widely I’m always drawn home to the laid-back, coastal lifestyle that exists on the west coast. Do you have your own pets? I have two animal companions: a 12 year old tortoiseshell cat named Evie and a 12 year old Curly-Coated Retriever named Olive. Where did you get your love for the veterinary field from? Growing up, my mother instilled a love of animals into me- she was part of the Australian Kennel Club and both bred and showed Champion Dobermans.  From a very early age, the importance of the human-animal bond was evident in our family. I feel privileged to have owned a variety of animals as a child, including dogs, cats, budgies, chickens, crazy-crabs and even an orphaned lamb. What are some of you the most exotic animals you’ve treated as a Veterinary Dermatologist? It’s hard to choose but it’s a close call between an allergic meerkat, a chimpanzee with a fungal infection causing her to have cracked lips and a coatimundi (a South-American mammal which belongs to the Racoon family) with an immune mediated skin disorder.

Dr Sharon Bryden|BSc BVMS (Hons) FANZCVS  

Dr Sharon Bryden is a registered specialist in veterinary dermatology. She is a founder and director of Veterinary Dermatology Specialists in Perth. Sharon has worked in dermatology speciality practice in Perth for 20 years (after spending 7 years as a general practice vet in England and Australia). Her first 10 years of dermatology were spent at Murdoch University Veterinary Hospital within the dermatology clinic and teaching nearly 500 veterinary graduates about dermatology.  Most recently Sharon has been the director of her own specialist practice Perth Veterinary Dermatology. She is a Fellow of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists (ANZVCS) and served for 10 years on the Dermatology Fellowship Examination Committee including acting as a fellowship examiner. Get to know more about Dr Sharon: Where are you from? I am a Perth girl born and bred although I worked for 2 years in England (as my mum was born in Yorkshire). Do you have your own pets? Currently we don’t have “too many” pets Theodore is a rescue Greyhound who is nearly 12. Tobie is a Tenterfield Terrorist (sorry Terrier) who is nearly 10. Pecos our special 3- legged cat ) is nearly 2 (he needed an amputation as a baby because he was brought in as a stray with multiple fractures) Cosmo a beautiful stray that we pretend is a Russian Blue – has just turned 1 We also have 9 tropical fish. So not “too many” pets Where did you get your love for veterinary field from? Being the granddaughter of a Yorkshire dairy farmer, I read and watched everything about James Herriott (All Creatures Great and Small) and was entirely obsessed with the (completely unrealistic) life of a vet. Spending all my school holidays on a wheat and sheep farm (which was a long way from Yorkshire) I continued my love of all things to do with animals.  I was then further “encouraged” by a career guidance counsellor (in the 1980’s) who seriously advised me that “girls can’t be vets”.

Dr Sam Crothers|BSc BVMS DACVD  

Dr Sam Crothers is a board-certified veterinary dermatologist. She is a founder and director of Veterinary Dermatology Specialists in Perth. Dr Sam has practiced in the field of dermatology in Northern California, Colorado, Perth and Melbourne. She has treated exotic animals at the San Francisco Zoo and a wildlife park in Colorado while in the USA. Dr Sam graduated from Veterinary School at Murdoch University. She worked in a busy small animal general practice in Perth before moving to California to complete a dermatology residency training program at the University of California Davis (UC Davis). She accepted a role as a clinical instructor at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital following her residency then was an Assistant Professor at Colorado State University (CSU). Dr Sam trained dermatology residents at both UC Davis and CSU as well as hundreds of veterinary students in the USA and Melbourne. Her scientific research has been published in the journal of Veterinary Dermatology. She is a member of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists (ANZVCS) and the American College of Veterinary Dermatology (ACVD). Get to know more about Dr Sam: Where are you from? I was born in Geraldton, WA and moved to Perth to complete my final years of high school and university. Veterinary Dermatology has taken me on a wonderful adventure to California, Colorado and then most recently Melbourne. I am now so happy to be home with my family and lifelong friends to raise my kids in the wonderful place of Perth. Do you have your own pets? I have a 13 year old Domestic Long Haired cat named Macadamia (who reins from California) and a 2 year old Domestic Long Haired cat named Cali-Coco.  They are best of friends and a much-loved part of our family. Where did you get your love for veterinary field from? I came home at the age of 6 to announce that I was going to be a vet and have never thought twice about my career path since. Growing up, I had a menagerie of pets including Golden Retrievers, Siamese and Balinese cats, a variety of birds, fish, hermit crabs, rabbits and mice. I fostered native wildlife and bred birds and rabbits. I was fortunate to live next door to one of the vets in Geraldton and spent weekends and holidays helping at the local veterinary clinic. I enjoy working with animals as much as I do with their humans. What are some of you the most exotic animals you’ve treated as a Veterinary Dermatologist? A highlight of my time in the USA was having the privilege of helping one of the polar bears at the San Francisco Zoo. One of the newly introduced bears bought fleas into the bear enclosure and she became very itchy. I was also fortunate to perform intradermal testing for environmental allergies on a tiger in Colorado.