With this past year’s stay-at-home orders and social distancing, many of us have had to adjust to an increasingly virtual world. Work meetings, social events, and even doctor’s appointments can be conducted from home through video calls (much to the delight of our furry friends), and virtual vet visits are no exception.
Telemedicine, Telehealth, and Teletriage
Pet owners who prefer to seek an expert’s opinion from the safety of their home have three options: veterinary telemedicine, veterinary telehealth, and veterinary teletriage.
Veterinary telemedicine refers to remote clinical services, while telehealth consists of broader, non-clinical issues such as providing advice about pet health and care.
Teletriage, on the other hand, is essentially a consultation in which the health expert can answer questions and provide insight as to whether the issue at hand is an emergency, or if it can wait to be addressed. Teletriage comes in especially handy when you need some peace of mind during late-night health scares or times when you and your four-legged friend are out of town and can’t get to your regular vet.
Whether you’re visiting a virtual or traditional vet, it never hurts to be enrolled in pet insurance as an extra financial precaution.
Benefits of Virtual Vet Visits
Some issues require an in-person, physical assessment—especially emergencies that need immediate treatment. However, there are still several things that your vet can assist you with during a virtual visit.
One of the main perks is that virtual vets are often available 24/7 if you’re going through an independent virtual vet teleservice. Some may even be more affordable than a traditional vet visit.
Virtual vet visits can also save you time (and spare your dog some anxiety) by skipping the whole “pack up and get in the car” ordeal. The virtual vet can answer general questions about topics such as grooming, parasite prevention, behavioral issues, diet, and exercise.
A virtual vet visit can also help you determine the severity of an issue and whether an in-person visit is necessary. It can also be useful when it comes to follow-up appointments and monitoring progress. Through pictures and video calls, the vet can check up on your kitty’s rash, see if your pup’s limp has improved, or check in to see if there are any side effects from that new medication.
If you would like to seek a second opinion without visiting a second veterinary office, virtual vet visits can be a great tool. Virtual vet visits are also helpful if you need some extra assistance with the next steps following a traditional visit, such as medication administration or dietary changes.
As an extra bonus, virtual vet visits allow the vet to observe your pet in their regular environment. This is especially useful for pets with vet phobias since they’ll likely be behaving more normally. Additionally, the vet will be able to see if the environment could be contributing to any health problems; you can also easily show samples of food or treats that you may otherwise forget to bring to a traditional vet visit.
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Preparing for a Virtual Vet Visit
When preparing for a virtual vet visit, be sure to have your pet’s medical information on hand. While there’s no need to trick your dog into getting in the car, you still want him to be present for the call. Designate a calm, quiet setting where your pet feels comfortable and relaxed. This is especially important if you’ll need to show areas of concern on camera.
Make sure your internet connection, camera, and audio are all functioning properly. You may want to keep the area clean, too—this isn’t a standard Zoom call where you can toss your take-out containers out of sight! The vet may have questions and want to see your pet’s environment, so be prepared to give a tour if needed.
If a live video call isn’t an option, you may also be able to chat with the vet online, via text, or through an app and send photos and videos on your own time.
Keep in mind that virtual vet visits should not replace traditional vet visits altogether. Instead, think of it as more of a supplementary service or consultation. There are still things that cannot be done virtually, such as listening to the heart and lungs, drawing blood, or performing X-rays and ultrasounds.
When to Contact a Vet
You know your pet best. If you notice any concerning changes in appearance or behavior, it’s never a bad idea to contact a vet.
Common symptoms of a sick cat include:
- Appetite changes
- Behavioral problems (such as lethargy or aggression)
- Itching and scratching
- Hair loss
- Bumps/scabs/skin issues
- Limping or signs of being in pain
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Symptoms of a sick dog are similar. Additional signs of a possible dog emergency include:
- Blue or pale gums
- Labored breathing
- Inability to walk
- Sudden, extreme changes in mental state
During emergencies, always opt for an in-person vet visit over a virtual vet visit.