Veterinary Telehealth, Is It Right for Your Pet?
By Pierre Mouchette | Bits-n-Pieces
When telehealth became a way of life during the pandemic, it was not only health care providers who adapted. Veterinarians also introduced ways to offer digital services to their clients. Many vets began with phone chats or video appointments using Skype or FaceTime. They also added follow-up care using text and e-messaging apps.
Over time, more vets implemented telehealth services into their practices and introduced new platforms for animal care. Today, these televet platforms give pet owners digital access to various services.
What telehealth services are available for pets?
Telehealth services for pet owners range from mobile apps that monitor your animals to video platforms that allow vets to diagnose and treat your furry loved ones. State boards regulate these services, and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) publishes a list of general guidelines. One of their guidelines addresses the veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR).
VCPR describes an already-established relationship between a pet and a veterinarian. Some televet services require a VCPR, and other services do not. The following is a breakdown of services available via telehealth and when they are only available if you already have a vet:
When is a telehealth vet visit OK for your pet?
Telemedicine visits are available for minor ailments and non-emergencies, including chronic conditions, new symptoms (acute care), and follow-up care.
Chronic conditions are illnesses your pet has lived with for a long time. Telehealth visits are convenient for a vet who has already diagnosed and treated your animal in person. Your vet may switch over to telehealth to manage ongoing conditions and other health concerns, such as:
Acute or new symptoms can occur quickly, like when your dog wakes up with a limp they did not have the day before or your cat stops eating suddenly. Examples of other acute symptoms include:
If your pet has undergone surgery, you may be able to save time by scheduling telehealth follow-up visits. Your vet can observe your animal over the video, or you can check in by phone or through text with questions and concerns.
When should your vet see your pet in person?
While telehealth makes vet visits convenient, they are not always appropriate. Sometimes it is better to have your pet seen in person. If, for instance, your animal experiences heatstroke, poisoning, trauma from a fall or accident, or another life-threatening event, you should call your vet or emergency animal clinic. Symptoms that warrant an in-person visit include:
How much do telehealth visits with a vet cost?
The cost of telehealth vet services depends on several factors, such as your pet's condition and how much your vet charges. Call your vet's office and ask about their telehealth services and prices.
Televet apps and websites typically charge a flat or monthly subscription fee. Here are a few examples:
How can I find a vet that offers telehealth visits?
Start by calling your vet and asking if they offer telehealth services. If they do not and you want to try virtual visits, call other vets in your area and ask about their telehealth care.
If you are looking for a licensed veterinarian to answer the occasional question, search for televet apps online or in your mobile phone's app store. There are many televet platforms to choose from.
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