WebMD BlogsPet Health

Telehealth for Your Pet? What a Vet Wants You to Know

dog computer
Will Draper, DVM - Blogs
By Will Draper, DVMVeterinarianSeptember 10, 2020

There have been so many changes in our world due to the COVID-19 pandemic; it's been interesting to see how we've adjusted. Wearing a mask in public places felt awkward and foreign at first, but now we grab masks like we grab our phones or keys before heading out the door. In veterinary practices, socially distanced “curbside service” started as an unusual and somewhat bizarre method of providing patient care, but now it’s become almost … normal.

Curbside service isn’t the only way that vet practices have been adjusting. Many practices are now trying remote telemedicine.

This service allows established clients to have minor issues evaluated and treated in the comfort of their own homes (or in their cars, on the beach, wherever their laptops or mobile devices can get a good signal). (In Georgia, those physically examined in our practice within an 18-month period -- relaxed from the usual 12-month restriction due to the pandemic. Check with your state veterinary board for their rules and restrictions.)

At my practice, we’d kicked the can down the road on this method for more than a year prior to massive shutdowns, so fortunately had it in place before the need struck. As the primary remote veterinarian for my practice, the majority of cases I’m seeing are skin or ear issues (usually a result of environmental allergies), mild pain/arthritic issues, urinary issues, or acute gastrointestinal issues. Sometimes our clients simply want to know if they should bring their pets in for the problems they are noticing; they appreciate having a sound, educated recommendation before heading over. It’s been a saving grace for our practices, and practically every day a client tells us how grateful they are for the convenient service.

Reach out to your veterinary care provider to see if they offer telemedicine; and if so, what days and hours is the service available, what costs are involved, and how does that cost affect the need for a future in-hospital visit if necessary (some practices will offer a credit toward an in-office exam that follows a remote consultation). It is also appropriate to ask if the veterinarians performing the teleconsults are your vets or those employed through a third-party provider. And if the doctors on staff at your vet will be handling the cases, are you allowed to request a particular vet? All good information to know beforehand. If your vet does not offer telemedicine, find out if they intend to -- or if they have suggestions/recommendations as to where you can take advantage of such a service.

Telemedical consults are best suited for noncritical cases that are not emergencies. The visit can be accomplished with a simple texting session, or with a video chat if necessary. For more serious medical issues, a true visit to your veterinarian is almost always the best option. Head to the vet office for issues like:

  • Deep lacerations
  • Eye issues (particularly those involving injury to a single eye)
  • Extreme weakness or lethargy
  • A loss of appetite or other gastrointestinal issues that exceed a 48-hour period (or if a bloated abdomen, which should be physically evaluated as soon as possible)
  • Nonweight bearing lameness

If you aren’t sure which way to proceed, don’t hesitate to go “old school” and actually call your vet -- on your phone -- for guidance and recommendations.

 

 

 

WebMD Blog
© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Blog Topics:
About the Author
Will Draper, DVM

Dr. Will Draper, founder and director of The Village Vets practice group in metro Atlanta, GA, has been a well-known small-animal practitioner for almost 30 years. He is presently featured on Disney Plus’s “Love & Vets” with his wife, Dr. Fran Tyler. You can follow Dr. Will on Instagram and on Twitter.

More from the Pet Health Blog

View all posts on Pet Health

Latest Blog Posts on WebMD

View all blog posts

Important: The opinions expressed in WebMD Blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Blogs are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD Blogs as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Read More