Can my pet have a "telehealth" appointment with the veterinarian?

Telehealth includes any use of technology to remotely receive healthcare information or services for your pet. It might involve texts, emails, video chats, mobile apps, or even wearable devices.

Veterinary hospitals have expanded their use of technology during the COVID-19 pandemic, and telehealth for pets is likely to keep growing. Some appointments and treatments obviously must be done in person, but other consultations, follow-ups, and in-the-moment observations can be done remotely using telehealth. For example, discussions on nutrition and behavior training lend themselves nicely to telehealth. You can have your veterinary team’s full attention and get your questions answered when it’s convenient for you both, saving a trip to the hospital.

Examples of veterinary telehealth

  • Teleconsulting over video chat about nutrition for your new kitten
  • Snapping a photo of your dog’s rash on your phone and sending it to your veterinary team
  • Using video chat for a teletriage appointment with an ER veterinarian to assess whether your cat needs urgent care in the middle of the night
  • Video-recording your dog in their natural environment, so your veterinarian can see the behavior at home and in-the-moment
  • Receiving an e-prescription for your dog’s medication refill

Benefits of telehealth

Get guilt-free access to your pet’s veterinary team

No need to PM your high school friend’s cousin’s wife who’s a veterinarian to ask questions about your dog’s rash at 2:00 am. Snap a picture and send it to your family veterinarian instead. They have all your pup’s medical history and can reach out to you ASAP to help troubleshoot that itchy skin problem and decide whether an in-person visit is necessary.

Emergency teletriage can save lives

Paying for a veterinarian to perform teletriage on your cat’s midnight meow-fest could save is life, especially if he’s yowling because of a life-threatening condition like a urinary blockage or a blood clot that requires you to pack up in your PJs and jet to the veterinarian. On the other hand, the triage evaluation could help you sleep better if it’s deemed that the issue can likely wait until morning.

In-the-moment evaluation in your pet’s natural environment

Murphy’s Law states that your pet (and your car) will stop making “that noise” the moment they get within 20 feet of an expert who can diagnose the issue. Fear-induced adrenaline can mask signs of illness in the hospital, but you can catch footage of your pet in their natural environment where they can feel free to limp, cough, sneeze, or squint to show discomfort.

Save money through early detection

Capturing subtle changes in behavior using technology can help your veterinarian diagnose progressive diseases like arthritis early on, allowing you to intervene and keep your pet comfortable.

Consumers’ role in the future of telehealth

Don’t be shy about sharing feedback if your veterinarian has adopted technology that is “glitchy” or hard to use. And, if you purchase wearables or remote monitors for your pet, be sure to ask for details on if, how, and when the veterinary team wants to receive data, as well as how they’re going to use that information as part of a wellness or treatment plan.

The use of technology to assist in caring for your pets is only going to improve and become more widespread as consumers like you ask for more telehealth services. Veterinary hospitals offer different levels of telehealth, so be sure to check with your team about specifics, and add telehealth to your list of criteria when looking for a new veterinarian or veterinary hospital.