Dermatologists Can Look to Pets to Find New Treatments for Humans

Researchers can determine the best treatments for skin disorders, like atopic dermatitis and ringworm, by first observing how they benefit pets with the same conditions.

Researchers can determine the best treatments for skin disorders, like atopic dermatitis and ringworm, by first observing how they benefit pets with the same conditions.

Prior to the growing veterinary field, one doctor would care for all family members, including the pets. The One Health movement explores these connections among humans, animals, and the environment.

“Dermatologists, veterinarians, and scientists can learn a lot from one another,” 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 said in a statement. “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.”

Researchers could also learn from how animals are affected by skin diseases in their natural environment and could provide insight for how the disease would affect a human. Gardner discussed at the American Academy of Dermatology Summer Meeting the efforts to develop systemic and immune-based treatments because most animals cannot use typical topical treatments, due to their fur. If new treatment developments are made for pets, they may eventually be adapted for human patients.

“We humans don’t exist in a bubble,” Gardner said. “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.”

Additionally, because One Health research focuses on the interconnectivity of health among human, animals, and the environment, researchers can help identify which conditions are transferable between animals and humans.

“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,” Gardner noted. “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.”

The overall goal of One Health is to improve the health and well-being of all species to produce a “healthy coexistence.” Dermatologists, and all other doctors, can benefit from exploring all fields to find the best treatment options for their patients.

“When different specialists work together, the benefits are evident across all their fields,” Dr. Gardner said. “In learning from other physicians and scientists, dermatologists can build on their own expertise to provide the best possible treatment for their patients.”