No matter what type of animal you have, veterinary telemedicine services are a great way to deal with issues that don’t warrant an emergency visit to your local vet. If you’ve ever stumbled upon a Google Terrier while trying to determine if your pet’s actions are normal, you should try a virtual visit to the vet.
With veterinary telemedicine, you talk to a veterinarian via text, phone, or video chat for real-time advice on what to do for your pet. It is do not a replacement for regular office visits, and most vets on telemedicine services can’t diagnose or prescribe medication for pets they’ve never seen in person, but they are able to give useful tips. The Coronavirus pandemic made these teleservices all the more vital, and we believe the call will last long after the pandemic is over. After trying several of these services, here’s what we recommend.
If you’ve postponed a visit due to the pandemic, call your vet. Their clinic is likely to be open (if ever it is closed). You will simply have to follow special rules so that they can see your pet, such as waiting outside the clinic rather than inside and wear a face mask. Be sure to check out our other pet guides, like the Best equipment for newly adopted puppies and kittens, Best Cat Toys and Supplies, Best pet cameras, and the Best Dog Tech Accessories.
Update March 2021: We have added more services like Chewy and Pawp and updated the prices.
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Telemedicine vs teletriaging
It is important to know the distinction between veterinary telemedicine (sometimes called television) and teletriage. We have recommendations for both.
A veterinary client-patient relationship (VCPR) is required for veterinarian to diagnose and prescribe medication, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. This means that a veterinarian must have seen an animal in person first, usually within a number of months before they can diagnose and prescribe medication through a television service.
Not all vet offices have made the jump to telemedicine, but luckily there is still a lot to do if your vet isn’t available on one of these apps. A teletriage service can help you decide whether a midnight run to an emergency veterinary hospital is needed or whether it can wait until morning. It is also useful for general pet ownership questions that you could typically only use on Google: Should I bathe my cat? Will the food my dog stole make him sick? What is the normal behavior of the litter box? “
“You can’t prescribe, treat and diagnose, but you can sort, support, provide general advice and guidance,” says Brandon Werber, CEO and Founder of AirVet. “It’s really what people need 99 percent of the time at 11 p.m. when their vet is closed and their dog is vomiting.”