What is Telemedicine for Dogs?
Humans aren’t the only ones who can see a doctor online. Since COVID in 2020, there has been a 70% increase in veterinarian visits over the internet, according to Veterinarians.org. Telehealth is a remote online appointment between a provider and patient where the doctor can ask questions and provide a diagnosis. These doctors can also give prescriptions through online pharmacies that deliver medications directly to your door.
While telehealth has been on the rise in the past decade, it’s recently climbed in popularity in order to reduce the exposure risks that an in-person appointment would traditionally have. However, the benefits today go beyond COVID quarantine protocols.
Telehealth for animals reduces the strain that a veterinary office has with processing patients. While it doesn’t replace certain in-hospital care needs, it can ease the strain on the vet while providing a direct line of communication for health concerns that pet owners may have.
Scheduling an online appointment is also far more convenient for patients, as they can access their appointment anywhere with a computer and camera. Animals who are particularly uncomfortable or anxious in public settings will also have a much easier time receiving a diagnosis in the comfort of their home. It also benefits 65+ year old pet owners who are more susceptible to illnesses or have trouble leaving their homes.
When Should You See an Online Veterinarian?
Televets traditionally work with established Veterinary-Client-Patient Relationships (VCPR). This means that you’ve already taken your dog in for a physical exam and the vet is familiar with your animal’s medical history. If your veterinarian doesn’t provide televet services, you can look into separate televet providers that will work with you directly. However, this is dependent on the laws in your region.
Televets for dogs are best for chronic, acute issues like allergies and mild limping. Serious wounds or conditions that require emergency care are not suitable for any telemedicine.
Many vets can give a diagnosis and prescription, or monitor known ongoing issues remotely. While they may have the aforementioned medical history records, it’s good to go into the appointment being aware of your dog’s general health and background.
Physical examinations are possible, but more abbreviated with televets. It’s possible that your veterinarian may ask for photos, video, or live demonstration of the area of concern on your dog. For example, if your dog is limping, the vet may want to see a video of them walking. It’s also possible that your vet will guide you through checking your dog’s heart rate or respiratory rate. From there, your vet can give a tentative diagnosis and advise the best course of action. It’s also possible to receive prescriptions for medications through an online appointment.
What Services Do Veterinarians Offer by Telemedicine?
Telemedicine: Medical appointments under an existing VCPR. Covers general communication, condition diagnosis, treatment discussion, and more.
Teleconsulting: General practice veterinarian communicates with a veterinary specialist to gain information on specific patient needs.
Behavior and training: Advice and guidance on correcting and improving bad pet behavior; can be recurring if necessary.
Preventative health: Also known as teleadvice, which covers health guidance or recommendations for maintaining good pet health. This is not meant to diagnose or treat conditions.
E-prescribing: Dependent on state and federal requirements, as well as the nature of the medication, some vets can diagnose and prescribe medications for your pets. Veterinarians may also be able to fill out and fax prescriptions to local pharmacies for your pet.
An example of telehealth for pets is EasyPetsVets, which also offers a monthly membership fee that provides 24/7 access to licensed veterinarians.
Advantages of Telehealth for Pets
Telehealth allows veterinarians to process a far greater volume of patients than a traditional clinic could handle. With Gen Zs and Millennials comprising 46% percent of pet owners (according to research reported on Statista), finding a tech-related solution for the tech-savvy population makes a lot of sense.
Many animal diagnoses or check-ups also require a direct line of communication with the veterinarian, but don’t necessarily need a hands-on visit. Many veterinarians can also expand their hours and partner with companies that specialize in telehealth to improve the work-life balance of their employees. This also allows patients to be less constrained by clinic hours when scheduling their appointments.
With easier direct access to veterinarians, reaching out with pet health concerns is far easier for patients. This, combined with the rise in animal monitoring devices, means a much earlier diagnosis for potential health problems. Early treatment is key for many health concerns and can save a lot of money long-term for pet owners. Some telehealth services also provide medication discounts for using their services, as part of their service package.
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