Have you ever Googled your pet’s symptoms? Scared yourself to death that your dog may have a life-threatening disease? Don’t worry you are not the first person to do this! Veterinarians are aware that people turn to the internet for help in times of worry and have come up with a much better solution. Instead of asking the internet, you can now ask a veterinarian directly instead. A virtual vet visit puts you face to face with a qualified, licensed veterinary professional who will be able to see and discuss your pet’s individual symptoms and needs. They can then tailor advice specifically for your pet’s situation. This is all with the added benefit of not even leaving your home!
Vets use virtual services too!
Veterinarians use virtual vet services commonly between each other in their day-to-day work. Veterinarians send images of X-rays, ultrasounds, or CT scans virtually to be reported by a boarded radiologist. This service may be offered by someone who may not even be in the same country! Veterinarians consult Specialists or Board Certified Veterinarians for advice on medical or surgical treatment for complicated cases via virtual means. So, it makes perfect sense that veterinarians can now expand this virtual world even further and reach out to new or existing clients through digital communication.
What sorts of problems can a virtual vet help with?
There are so many things a virtual vet can help with! Virtual assessments are stress-free for your pet and take place in the home so we see them in their most relaxed states. Often in the vet clinic pets suffer from stress. This means parameters such as breathing rates are often falsely elevated, and it can be difficult to accurately assess if a patient is painful or anxious.
Common reasons pet parents use virtual vet services include:
- Advice on behavior
- Advice on nutrition or changing diets
- Weight loss goals
- Minor injuries such as broken nails or small cuts that can be managed at home
- Ongoing management of chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis and feline lower urinary tract disease
- If considering taking a new pet into the home
- Preventative care recommendations e.g. flea, worm, and vaccination schedules
It can be difficult to know if a problem is urgent, requires immediate care, or if it can wait until your regular vet is open, for example, on the weekend or at night. This is one of the biggest advantages of virtual vet care. A doctor can look at your pet through the camera at their symptoms. They can virtually assess things like breathing rates or patterns, lameness, and look at gum color. They will then be able to advise if the condition can wait a day or so, or if you need to go straight to the emergency clinic.
Virtual vet care has been life-saving in spotting very sick animals that need urgent care. A common example of this would be a dog with a splenic mass, who is usually very bright and active one day, and then suddenly collapses with pale gums for no obvious reason. A virtual vet can identify that this is a medical emergency and needs a vet appointment ASAP.
However many small ailments such as mild vomiting or diarrhea can have home treatment as a first-line treatment. This may get you through the weekend to see your regular veterinarian during the day. This avoids costly emergency or urgent care veterinary visits.
When is a virtual vet visit not recommended?
A virtual vet visit is an excellent choice for non-urgent problems. However, in the event of an emergency, a virtual vet visit is not advised as often medications and procedures such as x-rays or blood tests need to be carried out.
The following are examples of conditions where virtual vet advice is not recommended:
- Seizure or tremoring
- Inability to urinate for 24 hours
- Eye conditions or injuries
- Major bleeding or bleeding that will not stop with pressure
- Trauma cases such as road traffic accidents
- Constant vocalisation suggestive of pain
In these cases, please head straight to your nearest veterinary clinic for urgent care.
Technology can often be scary when it’s a new concept. The idea of visiting the vet through an app can be intimidating. Fear not! The BetterVet app is simple and easy to use. The vet will connect to you and will be able to see your pet (and you!) and you can see the veterinarian for a face-to-face chat. With COVID-19 restrictions, many of us have experienced our pets going to the vet and not being able to go with them, so being able to connect to the vet and talk face to face is a refreshing change from the norm.
If you are worried about technology issues, the BetterVet staff are trained in basic technology troubleshooting. They will be able to guide you through issues such as how to turn on your camera or microphone to allow a good consultation to occur. However, these problems are very few and far between and most people have no issues.
If you prefer your privacy, you can choose to turn your camera off or talk to the veterinarian via chat, sending photos. While video chat is preferred to see your animal, we understand you may wish for privacy and continue care in person if needed.
There is no stress of having to grab the cat carrier, catch the cat and sit in a waiting room for half an hour when using virtual vet care, it’s simply a case of downloading the app, inserting your details, and then choosing a time to talk to a veterinarian. It really is that easy, and people are often amazed at the convenience of this service.
Benefits of virtual vet visits
A virtual vet visit has so many benefits. There is no need to leave the house, so you can fit your vet appointment into a time that suits your busy life. Virtual vet services are often available early in the morning, at weekends, and late at night when your usual veterinary clinic may be closed.
With the pandemic ongoing, many of us have relatives who are immune-compromised or unable to be vaccinated. The thought of sitting in a waiting room with strangers can now be quite a stressful experience. By using virtual vet services first, you may be able to solve your issue at home. If the veterinarian advises you must go into the clinic, then you know you have done everything possible to protect your family from unnecessary exposure to illness by using virtual services first.
When you are at the vet clinic, it can often feel like there isn’t enough time for all your questions. A virtual vet visit gives you the complete attention of the vet to talk, in-depth about your thoughts and allow you to fully understand the recommendations and reasons behind these.
Virtual vet visits offer complete privacy. If you become overwhelmed and need time to process the news or to cry, there is nowhere more private than your own home. If you are considering if it’s time to put your pet to sleep or wish to talk about the options around this, a virtual vet visit is the most private way of having this discussion.
For people living rurally or far from town, the thought of driving an hour or so to see a vet can be off-putting. Using virtual services can save valuable time traveling to and from the vet clinic if the problem can be solved at home virtually, and often pets can get care sooner with a virtual vet visit than waiting for a time that suits parents and vets for an in-person appointment.
A virtual vet visit is often much more affordable than an in-person visit. This helps many people who are on a budget and need to be accountable for where finances are spent. A virtual vet can discuss payment options available if in-person care is needed.
Why do I have to pay for virtual vet visits?
Your veterinarian is still doing their job. They have trained for many years to gain their qualifications and experience, and like all services, veterinarians deserve to be paid for their work. Often the cost of a virtual vet visit is cheaper than an in-person visit, and the relief of instant vet advice makes this service invaluable.
Can medications be prescribed through virtual vet visits?
Usually, a veterinarian is unable to prescribe medication via a virtual vet visit, as vets need to have an established Veterinary Patient-Doctor Relationship. To fulfill this, an in-person visit is needed. The very rare exception to this is if your veterinarian has seen you recently and is doing a virtual follow-up appointment to see how your pet is doing, and they may advise you to discontinue or add in further medications, but this will only be after an initial in-person check-up.
What sort of equipment do I need for virtual vet visits?
A stable internet connection is needed, and a mobile phone, tablet, or computer device with a camera. This is so the veterinarian can see and hear you during the video call.
Do I need to be registered with a veterinarian to use virtual vet services?
No. You just need an internet connection and an electronic device to talk to the vet. This is good news for people who have yet to register with a veterinarian and find themselves needing advice.
Virtual veterinarian visits are here to stay and have multiple benefits for you, your pet, and the veterinarian. It will allow increased access by owners to affordable veterinary care and advice at all hours of the day or night. This space is growing rapidly, and it’s exciting to see what other benefits will come from telemedicine. If you are interested in learning more about BetterVets Virtual veterinary service, read our blog here.