While a global pandemic may have made the need for virtual vet visits much greater, online health care for pets has been a growing industry for a while. With convenient times, options and pricing, telemedicine for pets makes a lot of sense. We’ve scoped out the best veterinary telemedicine services around.
What Is Veterinary Telemedicine?
Veterinary Telemedicine is very similar to human telemedicine/telehealth appointments in a lot of respects. Obviously, if your pet is in need of in-person veterinary care for whatever reason, you’ll want to contact your veterinarian and schedule that appointment.
But sometimes, the anxiety of the vet can be overwhelming for a pet, particularly if it’s essentially something that can be talked about or is a fairly easy-to-identify issue.
Veterinary telemedicine allows you to speak to either a veterinary technician or a licensed veterinarian over video, voice or text and that peace of mind can be priceless.
Sometimes, what you think may be a major issue is minor and a quick talk with a licensed professional (without having to go into the office with your pet) can make a huge difference for you both.
Do Veterinarians Actually Diagnose And Prescribe Online?
The answer to that is “Yes, they do, ” and, “No, they don’t.” True telemedicine will be able to offer (some) diagnosis and prescription services, but typically requires a vet client-patient relationship (VCPR) according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. What that means is that a vet must have seen your pet in person first, typically within a year, in order to do phone/video diagnosis or prescribing of medicine.
More and more online practices are encouraging their patients to participate–having them come in for that initial meet-and-greet and look over so that should emergency pop up, they’re able to schedule a telemedicine appointment with you at your convenience.
Telehealth services for your pet also include what is typically called Teletriage and generally speaking, that’s what most pet parents are lookng for when they feel like their dog’s poo looks a little off or their kitty seems to be eating less and hiding more than usual. Pet parents want to be able to get in touch with a professional with ease and when they need to.
That’s where Teletriage comes in handy. Most of the time, pet parents really just need triage, general advice, guidance and support from their veterinarian and vet techs, and that’s just what most veterinary telemedicine services will offer exactly when they need it. Experience speaking here, but we find that’s often at 1:00 am after Fifi has lost her cookies twice that night and your vet’s office is obviously closed.
Why Choose Veterinary Telemedicine?
In a nutshell? Veterinary telemedicine is a great option for the same reasons that many telehealth for human appointments are. They are typically offered on super-convenient schedules for you, which makes them easily accessible for most.
They’re an affordable way for your pet to ‘see’ a vet at almost anytime of the day or night, and can often preempt an otherwise super expensive trip to the local emergency animal hospital just to find out a teaspoon of salt may have been all your dog needed to barf up that sinus infection antibiotic of yours they scarfed off the counter. True story, and for the record, our vet said that the medicine wouldn’t hurt our dog, but it sure was nice to just be able to do a quick telehealth chat with our vet to find that out.
And most of all, though virtual vet vists can obviously replace the need to see the vet in-person sometimes, the peace of mind you can get about your pet’s well-being from the comfort of your own (and their) home is priceless. It can mean the difference between that expensive emergency hospital run or just waiting until the morning when your vet is in the office and can see your pet in-person (if needed) and is often much less stress on your pet too.
The Best Veterinary Telemedicine Services
Vetster lets you connect with either registered veterinary technicians or veterinarians within minutes and they continue to grow their marketplace of registered veterinarians at lightning speed. You simply head over to find a vet tech or a vet, book the appointment from their easily accessed platform and voila! You can ask about everything from appropriate weight and diet to how often your dog should get a bath to whether they should come in for that hotspot. Peace of mind, day or night and no waiting (and paying for) an animal ER clinic.
Virtuwoof is a service that will allow you to connect to your vet’s office with ease, which is nice when you’re worried about the snake that just bit your pup’s nose and whether you need to come in or not. With Virtuwoof, you’ll have a profile page for your pet and you’ll just click to start a new visit–with 11 different options for the visit given and the ability to write in ‘other’ if you need to. A fast and easy way to connect with your vet from the comfort of your home.
AirVet is a neat app in that it lets you get in touch with and conduct virtual vet visits with your vet if they’re in the network, but if not, any of the other licensed vets in the app can help too. A convenient option if your vet is not available but you’re looking for fast connection to answer questions about your pet. If your vet is not available or in the network, you can still seek general health support and guidance at your convenience, and you can keep profiles with your pets health information for future references.
You can only find Ask.Vet online (no phone/text/zoom/etc.) though it’s available for desktop and mobile browsers. Each session is about $20-$25 usually, and sometimes they’ll run specials where they partner with companies and offer the service temporarily for free.
Still, even if not free, they’re reasonably priced and in just a few minutes, you can chat with a vet who can guide you through situations and help you know when it’s time to seek in-person help for your pet. They can even help you arrange that as they walk you through, and you can have a transcript of each convo/interaction in case your in-person vet or an emergency vet needs it. Sometimes, all you need is some talking through, and Ask.Vet excels at that.
PetCoach is from Petco, and it’s similar to Ask.Vet in that you can virtually ask questions about your pet’s nutrition, behavior, health or more. You’ll quickly get answers from a plethora of professionals: verified licensed veterinarians, vet techs, nutritionists, trainers and behavior specialists. This is strictly Teletriage, and you can either ask a question and get an answer for $5 or ask for a $20 in-depth consult with a vet that gives you unlimited text messaging and photos to get your situation resolved as best they can.
Available on both iOS and Android formats, TeleVet was started to help vets have better work-life balance. Veterinary care is rewarding work, but hard on the heart sometimes, as they love your pets as much as you do. With Televet, the veterinarians in the network create service times that offer you convenience and pricing information all before you ever have to commit. Then, once you’ve decided if you’d like to video chat or talk on the phone, your vet will go through your appointment and can even take your pet through a mini-exam as you’d use TeleVet because your current veterinarian is in their network and you most likely already have a VCPR.
WhiskerDocs offers both single appointments and subscription options for pet parents and the pricing ranges from $4.99 (an email) to $39.99 (phone call or live chat). For $16.99, subscribers get unlimited live chats, calls or emails and you can add additional pets for yearly subscriptions at 75% off.
Pet parents like Whiskerpets because they can talk with a veterinary telehealth specialist any time of the day, seven days a week. When you’re freaking about whether you need to do something for Fluffy’s diarrhea at 4 am, this is super convenient!
8. Fuzzy Pet Health
Fuzzy Health Pet is another general triage service that offers advice through live chat or video. You can get a hold of one of Fuzzy’s licensed veterinarians, vet tecs and vet assistants seven days a week, but only during the hours of 6 am and 10 pm PST. The fees vary depending on what you need, but a typical 30-minute behavior or training session is $30, and the same goes for a 30-minute diet and nutrition consult.
PetDesk is a bit more than a general televeterinary service. It’s an app that helps you keep track of all your pet’s appointments, medicines and other health information for easy access. It’s awesome to have all your pet info in one place, especially when you have a pet sitter or do end up having to make the trip to the emergency animal hospital, and you can use it on the regular for helping remember to stock food, schedule checkups or more. If your vet is in-network, you can even make virtual appointments.
TelePaws is another service of licensed veterinarians that seek to better your pet’s overall health and wellness. Animal lovers who know that over 75% of health issues can be resolved at home without stressing your pet out, you can either do a one-time appointment for $50 or a subscription service for the year that gives you six different teletriage appointments–they average to about $40/appointment and can focus on whether your pet needs better nutrition for better health to recommending you get to the animal hospital immediately for more urgent care. In some states, they’re even able to prescribe medicine.