Whilst telehealth has been around for a long time in the veterinary world, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has really shown its value to veterinarians and pet parents alike.
During the pandemic, many clinics are operating a ‘closed- clinic’ approach to protect staff and clients from illness. This can be scary for you as a pet parent as you will not be able to enter the building to accompany your pet for their health check. Veterinarians are aware of these stresses and have turned to telehealth to help pet parents.
Telehealth is the use of digital communication to provide veterinary care to our beloved pets. Read our blog to learn more.
Types of telehealth
Telehealth is split into two different categories, Tele-Health and Tele-Triage.
Telehealth is when your regular veterinarian is able to see you using virtual means. They have all your pet’s clinical records and have an existing relationship with your pet. This allows your regular veterinarian to prescribe medication if required via virtual means.
Tele-triage is an advice-only service. Often this service is available when your regular veterinarian may be closed, and you will be connected to the next available veterinarian. This type of service is excellent if you are unsure if your pet needs urgent veterinary care, or if you just have a quick question for a veterinarian and are not able to get in with your regular veterinarian any time soon.
Easy to use
One of the reasons telehealth has become so popular with pet owners is because it’s so easy to connect with your veterinarian. There are many forms of virtual communication, and everyone has their preferred communication style. Some common methods used include:
This method became popular at the very start of the pandemic and is the most basic. You can book a telephone call from your veterinarian, much like booking a phone appointment with your Doctor. They will call you at a scheduled time and invoice you by email for payment.
Video chat connects you to the veterinarian so that you can talk face to face using a video camera. The virtual veterinarian will also be able to see your pet. Each veterinarian will use a different platform such as Zoom, Skype, or a purpose-built app or program. You can choose to have your camera on or off during the appointment, but you will get more benefits out of it if your camera is turned on.
Email or webchat
You can connect with a veterinarian by email or web chat. This lets you talk to a veterinarian whilst you are on the go, e.g. during travel or whilst waiting for another appointment. You can send photos or video recordings of your pet to the vet and they will respond quickly and in a format that allows you to check back to their advice at a later date if needed.
Benefits of telemedicine
Less stress for pets
Pets often find traveling to the clinic, sitting in the waiting room, and being examined on a table a stressful experience, even if they don’t show outward signs of stress. There are lots of new smells and other animals in the vet clinic and this can all feed into their experience. When using an online veterinarian you are in your own home, with no other stressors other than asking your pet to look into the camera!
Virtual vet care can be accessed from home, on the go, and at any time of the day or night. This is useful if your pet has an accident out on a walk, or if they suddenly become unwell late at night and you are unsure as to what to do about it.
Virtual vet care can offer a reduced price point for pet parents to connect to a virtual veterinarian for advice on their pet’s health. Compared to emergency or urgent appointment fees, a virtual vet appointment is often significantly cheaper. This allows owners on tight or fixed budgets to still be able to access valuable veterinary care and help for their pets when they are unwell. A virtual vet visit can also confirm if further testing or medications are needed, allowing you to be prepared for increased costs at the after-hours clinic. Virtual vets can recommend different payment options available such as Scratchpay or may know of clinics that accept other forms of payment such as Afterpay.
Protecting your physical health is a priority in a pandemic. Using telemedicine for pets allows you to remain completely safe and isolated from other people. This completely eliminates the risk of disease transmission that would be present if you had to travel to the veterinary hospital. For older, or immunocompromised people or those with other health conditions, even after the pandemic has passed, this option will still be valuable for protecting their health.
Are veterinarians experienced in using telemedicine for pets?
Veterinarians have been using telemedicine for many years before the video chat service became available, using the telephone or emailed pictures. This means they are now even more able to offer relevant specific advice through video chat services.
How long does an appointment usually last?
A virtual vet visit usually lasts between ten and fifteen minutes depending on the complexity of the issue you are calling about.
Can the veterinarian see more than one pet at the same time using telemedicine?
Yes, but you will need to book an appointment time long enough to cover both animals' health conditions. We recommend a minimum of 15 minutes per animal or per condition.
Telehealth has shown multiple benefits during the pandemic and has the potential to benefit the lives of animals ongoing into the future. Its benefits are not limited to the pandemic, and now that we have easy-to-use affordable methods of connecting with a veterinarian, telehealth is here to stay. We encourage you to consider booking a virtual veterinary visit the next time your pet is in need of a vet, you’ll be sure to love it!