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Online Vet: What To Know About Telehealth & Online Vet Appointments

Sometimes, it is simply impossible to see your local vet concerning your pet's health. That’s when an online vet steps into the picture. An online veterinarian can offer consultations and help your pet in a pinch. Not only are they there to give you insight into how to treat your pet when they are unwell, but they can also help you get greater peace of mind when you’re concerned something isn’t quite right with your pet. 

There are a myriad of reasons why online vets are becoming an increasingly popular option. We encourage you to look into online veterinarians because they can be a useful, easy way to get your pet the care that they need the moment they need it from the comfort of your home.  

Online vet services gained traction during the Covid-19 pandemic, as a visit to the online vet was an easy, safe way to get professional insight as to what’s going on with your animal. When social distancing and self-isolation forced people across the world indoors, many doctors embraced virtual appointments, or telemedicine, as a way to have visits with their patients at a distance — and veterinarians were no exception.

Now that the world has largely reopened, it’s becoming clear: telehealth services—for humans and pets—are here to stay. You might be wondering what telemedicine for pets is like. We are here to answer all of those questions for you. 

Today, we’re going to help you gain a more robust understanding of online vets and telehealth options for your pet. We’ll begin by sharing what telemedicine is and some benefits of it. Then, we will dive into when you should take your pet to an online vet. Finally, we will share how you can prepare for an online vet appointment. Let’s get started!

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What is telemedicine for pets?

Maybe you’ve heard of telemedicine for you, but what about for your pets? Telehealth is an extremely easy, accessible way for you to get answers and suggestions about your pet. You can reach out to an online vet if you’re having questions about your pet’s behavior or if there’s a particular situation that you need advice about. For example, if your pet is vomiting and your local vet's office isn’t open, reaching out to an online vet is an excellent idea.

So, what is it? Telemedicine for pets involves the pet owner having virtual consultations with an online vet on a computer, tablet, or another mobile device. Yes, it really is that simple! One of the reasons that it is so popular is because of the fact that you can talk to veterinary professionals anywhere. 

“The pet owner can talk with the veterinarian about their concerns regarding their pet,” explains Leslie Brooks, DVM, veterinarian advisor for betterpet.

Maybe you are wondering, why not just take my pet to their local vet? Well, while that might sound good in theory, the reality is that your pet’s local vet is not accessible around the clock. If your animal requires care over the weekend, or overnight, or during a holiday, there’s a high likelihood that your vet won’t be able to see you.

If you can be seen by your vet, the bill will likely be massive. In addition, sometimes local vets are booked up, and this can result in a lengthy wait — sometimes, this could even mean days before your pet can get veterinary care. 

But sometimes, your pet needs medical attention instantly. What do you do in that instance? Reach out to an online vet, of course! 

How can Pawp help my pets?

There’s a lot that an online vet can do without being in the same room (physically, at least) as your pet. They can answer any general question you have about your cat or dog's nutritional needs, allergies, parasite control, or other topics. Online vets also serve as a 24/7 first line of defense when you're worried your pet is having an emergency.

In some circumstances, online vets are your best—and only—option. Therefore, having access to one is important. You might be wondering where you can find a reputable, experienced online vet. That’s where Pawp steps in. At Pawp, we connect you to the best in the business—and at a reasonable price, too. Our vets are accessible 24/7, no matter where you’re located. 

Of course, sometimes in-person visits will still be necessary. If the online vet feels the pet needs emergency assistance, they will direct them to nearby veterinary hospitals. Having access to an online vet is also invaluable because they can help you figure out which health concerns require the attention of an in-person vet and which don’t. This will help you ensure that your pet is getting the care that’s right for the urgency of their individual situation all of the time. 

When should you talk to an online vet?

Online vet visits are great for general pet advice, from nutrition to some types of behavior challenges. “They are useful to help answer patient-specific medical questions or get healthcare advice,” says Dennis Chmiel, co-founder, and CEO of ClueJay.

Also, being able to connect with a vet virtually can get pet owners answers to questions quickly, such as My dog just had diarrhea. What should I do? “The virtual vet can ask questions to learn more and give advice, such as to give an over-the-counter medicine, or feed a bland diet and watch for X, Y, and Z clinical signs,” adds Chmiel.

One of the reasons online vet visits are valuable is because they’re more accessible than in-person veterinary medicine. If you have any concerns about how your pet is behaving, you can get your questions answered without delay. In some situations, this can make a tremendous difference for your pet’s chance of recovery.

The truth is that there’s never the wrong time to check in with an online vet. Whether you’re noticing some behavioral issues with your pet and would like some insight on how to tackle them, or if there’s an emergency, an online vet can be the right place to seek help. 

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How do you know if you have a pet emergency?

Emergency vet visits can come with a massive price tag, and sometimes, they’re just not necessary. Your online vet will be able to provide insight as to when you should open your wallet at the emergency vet and when a visit isn’t necessary. This is because online vets are able to help an owner assess if the situation requires a vet visit immediately, if it can wait until the next day, or if it's not needed at all.

An emergency veterinary clinic can charge upwards of $150 even if it's a false alarm. Talking to an online vet beforehand can save you a trip and a fair amount of money. You will also gain peace of mind, as you can be confident that your pet is safe and not in danger. Peace of mind can prove to be priceless. 

Where can you get a second opinion or ask follow-up questions?

“Telehealth can also be valuable for follow-up advice after a surgical procedure or rechecking a health condition that doesn’t require another physical exam,” says Chmiel.

That's why there's an increasing amount of veterinary lab tests from home. These are professional tests that pet owners can directly access online, in-store, or through local pet service providers without a vet visit or prescription. “They purchase the test kit, collect the sample, and mail it to the lab for online results,” says Chmiel.

With virtual vet telemedicine, the idea is your vet can visualize your pet and talk with you about what is going on. “In this particular instance, they can even see inside the area where your pet lives, which can sometimes provide insight into what may be going on with your pet,” adds Brooks.

You can also easily show your vet the bag of food your pet eats on a video chat and other things that you may forget to take into the clinic for an appointment. 

Sometimes, you might feel it necessary to get a second opinion on your pet’s medical condition. An online vet is an excellent option for doing so. These vets are highly trained and won’t come with the larger price tag that an in-person vet often does. In addition, there will be a shorter wait time, and you won’t have to take off from work to haul your pet to the appointment. 

When should your pet go in for an in-person vet visit?

Of course, there are some instances where an in-person vet visit is unavoidable. With urgent and severe health issues or injuries, an in-person vet visit at the office may still be necessary. "Your vet cannot do a physical exam on your pet virtually, which means it's not the best way for an appointment, especially if it is important that the vet listens to your pet's heart and lungs," explains Dr. Brooks.

How do I prepare for my online vet appointment?

There are several steps that you can take to ensure that your pet’s online vet appointment goes smoothly. First, we recommend that you compile a list of concerns and questions that you have for the vet. This will help ensure that you don’t forget anything when you’re on a live chat with the vet. Of course, if any follow-up questions pop up later, you can simply set up another veterinary telemedicine visit.

What information do I need ahead of time?

Next, we recommend that you have your pet’s medical information accessible and on hand. Because an online vet might not know your pet quite as well as your local one would, being able to provide them with some background on your animal can be helpful. The more your vet knows about your pet, the more likely they are to be able to give you a complete, detailed evaluation. “It’s best to have present the family member who knows the pet’s everyday behaviors the best,” says Chmiel.

How do I help my online vet see my pet?

Next, we recommend that you have the right equipment available to facilitate an effective online vet visit. Sometimes online vet care platforms will allow you to share photographs and brief videos of your pet. Therefore, having a smartphone or computer with that availability could make a tremendous difference.  “Sometimes a 15-second video can spare a lot of back-and-forth typing, or sharing an image of the lab work can really help the vet provide the right advice,” adds Chmiel. 

Your online vet is unable to complete a physical examination on your pet, and they can’t take basic measurements such as respiratory rate, heart rate, or temperature. That means you’ll have to provide your vet with an accurate account of how your pet is acting. It’s essential you provide them with accurate information for the correct diagnosis.

Next, you should be prepared to show your online veterinarian your pet so they can observe them better. For pets that don’t like sitting still, you should have a treat available to help them stay put.  “Try to keep your pet in an easily accessible area where you can have them on the screen for the vet to see,” says Dr. Brooks. You may even need to move your camera to visualize a specific spot on your pet.

Lastly, you should be prepared to show your online vet "the environment in which your pet lives, the appearance of their stool and urine, or anything else that may be important," adds Dr. Brooks. Make sure you have a good, consistent internet connection, camera, and audio availability.

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Is veterinary telemedicine our future?

While there will always be a place for traditional appointments, online vet telemedicine is so easy to use and convenient, it will stay a good option for more routine questions and visits for a long time to come!

Sources:

Why Telemedicine Is Much More Than A Digital Doctor's Office | Forbes

Top 12 Dog Training Problems | PetMd

9 Signs Your Pet Needs to Go To the Emergency Room | Daily Paws

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