Telehealth has reached the pet world, and it’s an exciting and encouraging prospect, both for pet parents, and for the 393.3 million pets in their care.
Pets are a precious part of life. Sixty-seven percent of American households have a pet, and 95 percent of pet owners consider their pets to be part of the family. Not surprisingly, the dramatic increase in the number and status of pets has created a notable increase in demand for veterinary care. Many parents have experienced the challenges of getting access to veterinary care and advice. In a landscape of increased demand and increased need for efficiency and quality of care, telehealth offers a promising solution.
Dr. “Scott” Swetnam, a veterinarian with decades of experience treating patients and running veterinary clinics, firmly believes in the benefits of telehealth. He founded Pet Vet Hotline, a subscription-based virtual veterinary service offering unlimited, immediate access to experienced, licensed veterinarians 24/7 via video or chat.
“We love animals and the human animal bond,” he notes. “We wanted to create a solution that allows veterinarians to support that bond in the best way possible, while achieving the best possible outcomes for pets.”
There are a number of ways telehealth can help achieve these goals.
Convenient Access to Care
Through telehealth, vets can offer general health and behavioral advice, teach pet parents how to administer care, and advise whether and when medical attention is necessary – all in the comfort of their own home. This helps pet parents through the “gaps” of veterinary care – those moments when a symptom has appeared or an incident has occurred, and they aren’t sure what they should do next.
The ability of a pet parent to access this kind of professional advice on demand, on their own schedule, in the place their kitty or pooch is most comfortable, is perhaps the most obvious benefit telehealth has to offer. In addition, the ability to expand the pool of veterinarians beyond a specific city, town, or region allows better access to more expertise, with no additional effort.
Save Time, Save Money
When confronted with a pet health issue, many pet parents will take their furry kids to the vet just to be on the safe side. Having a professional veterinarian “on call” to answer basic health questions and assess the severity of any given situation could be a real game changer.
“It becomes a question of whether to take action or pause and monitor for changes,” says Dr. Scott. “Let’s say your dog is having digestive issues at 11 p.m. You could take him to the emergency vet and pay a hefty fee just to be seen. Or you could pay $12.95 per month for Pet Vet Hotline and speak to a licensed veterinarian immediately who can tell you, ‘He’s okay, just watch for these specific symptoms.’ This really has the potential to save pets a lot of undue stress and parents lots of money and time.”
Treatment While Traveling
Dealing with a pet illness or injury while traveling is unsettling. You’re far from home, far from a trusted veterinarian, and not sure whether to cut your trip short or keep going. The ability to consult with a veterinarian from your computer or mobile device gives you the peace of mind to help you enjoy your trip.
Education and Empowerment
We know the symptoms for human colds and stomach bugs, and what kinds of home remedies will make us feel better. We also know how to treat our own scrapes, cuts, bumps, and bruises. But what about our pets? They can’t tell us where they hurt or explain their symptoms. We have to rely on our observation, and we’re not always sure what clues to look for, or what the changes we see in their appearance or behavior really mean. And human remedies for injuries and illness don’t always apply to pets – and can be dangerous.
Through telehealth , veterinarians can educate pet parents in first aid; help them decode behavioral changes, which are very often linked to a pet’s overall health; and perhaps most importantly, teach them how to assess their pet so they can make informed decisions about his care. They can also separate myth from fact when it comes to outdated or anecdotal remedies pet parents may stumble on in their search for answers.
Learning how to evaluate your own pet and provide him with basic treatment and care, while knowing that help is available whenever you want, wherever you are, can ease your anxiety, improve your confidence, and empower you as a pet parent.
Support for Veterinary Staff
A steep increase in demand has, in some cases, put an increased strain on veterinary staff. Veterinarians often find themselves with less time to manage more patients, and pet parents often find themselves waiting longer for care, and for their basic health questions to be answered. Telehealth can ease the burden on veterinarians by fielding general behavioral, health, and nutrition questions, separating the urgent from the non-urgent, and assessing pets before in-clinic vet visits. This allows veterinary offices to run more efficiently, take more time with patients, and focus on the most serious health issues.
In short, telehealth can help bridge the gap between pet patients, pet parents, and veterinarians.
“As a veterinarian, you're doing the best you can but you can only do so much,” says Dr. Scott. “Virtual veterinary services provide easy access to veterinarians, give pet parents the education they need to make the right decisions for their pets, and support veterinarians so they can do the best possible job. I really believe this is a solution for the future.”
Photo Credit: istock/FamVeld