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How to Leverage Telehealth During the Pandemic for Pets

Pet Parenting in a Pandemic

While 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 stressors and have turned to telehealth to help pets and pet parents. 

Telehealth is the use of digital communication to provide virtual veterinary care to our beloved pets. Read more about our virtual pet care services on our blog. 

 

Types of Telehealth 

Telehealth is split into two different categories, Tele-health and Tele-triage. 

 

Tele-health

Tele-health is when your regular veterinarian is able to see you using a virtual platform. 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

Tele-triage is an advice-only service. Often this service is available when your regular veterinarian is closed and you may be connected to a veterinarian on call. This type of service can be helpful 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 vet any time soon. 

 

Telehealth is 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 include: 

 

Telephone 

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 own physician. They will call you at a scheduled time and invoice you by email for payment. 

 

Video chat

Video chat connects you to a veterinarian so that you can talk face-to-face using the camera on your mobile device or computer. The virtual veterinarian will also be able to see your pet. Each veterinarian will choose a platform to use during a virtual appointment, 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 it is more helpful for your vet to see your pet, so leaving your camera turned on is best when possible. 

 

Email or webchat 

You can also connect with a veterinarian by email or web chat. This lets you talk to a veterinarian while you are on the go, e.g. during travel or while waiting for another appointment. You can send photos or video recordings of your pet to the vet which will allow them to respond quickly and in a format that you can refer back to 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 to be a stressful experience, even if they don’t show outward signs of anxiety. 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!

 

Availability 

Virtual vet care can be accessed from home, on the go, and at any time of the day or night. This is especially helpful if your pet has an accident out on a walk, or if they suddenly become unwell late at night and you are unsure what to do about it. 

 

Affordability 

Virtual vet care can offer a reduced price point for pet parents to connect to a 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 have more affordable access to valuable veterinary care  when their pets are feeling unwell. A virtual vet visit can also confirm if further testing or medications are needed, before making a trip to an after-hours clinic. Virtual vets can recommend different payment options, such as Scratchpay, or may know of clinics that accept other forms of payment, such as Afterpay. 

 

Safety 

Protecting your physical health is a priority in a pandemic. Using telemedicine for pets allows you to remain safe and socially-distant from other people. Telemedicine eliminates the risk of 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 a valuable option.

FAQ

Are veterinarians experienced in using telemedicine for pets? 

Veterinarians have been using telemedicine for many years before a video chat service became available, using the telephone or email correspondence. This means they are now even more experienced with offering relevant and 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. 

 

Summing it Up

Telehealth services have shown multiple benefits during the pandemic and has the potential to continue to benefit the lives of many animals in 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 and your pet will be happy you did!