Is telehealth a good option for Your pet?

Veterinarian Dr. Boluwatife Babajimi-Joseph core member of the Meow101 team, shares his thoughts on telehealth for cats and other pets in general.

Vet telehealth has become absolutely necessary, and I believe it will remain so, even after COVID-19, because of the tremendous benefits it provides. Many pet owners nowadays excessively rely on “Dr. Google,” which often results in less than optimal care for their pet. Telehealth gives vets the opportunity to effectively compete with Google and allows pet owners to easily access specialized and customized advice for their specific pet situation.

In addition, telehealth can be extremely convenient for people living in remote locations and who have a hard time accessing professional veterinary service. 

However, as I’ll talk about below, there are obvious limitations to what vets can do through telehealth. 

Are there specific conditions or situations that pet telehealth is good for?

There are a number of situations in which telehealth can be a valid alternative to in-person care. 

  • Behavioral issues/training
  • Dermatologic concerns
  • Hospice care
  • Postoperative follow-up
  • Transportation issues
  • Basic triage (whether the pet should be seen by the veterinarian)
  • Environmental concerns/hazards that might contribute to a particular condition
  • Long-term care monitoring

It’s also important to remember that in these situations telehealth can be the first step in the process. Depending on the situation, a telehealth session might be used to discover whether a “live examination” is needed.

How do you know when you need to actually take your pet into the office?

Generally, it’s best to have your vet’s contact information readily available so that you can reach out to him/her when the first symptoms start showing. That’s because your vet is going to be the most informed person on whether it is necessary for you to take your pet in. 

However, there are some situations in which it is absolutely necessary for a vet to physically see the patient. Those situations, listed below, are the exceptions to the use of advanced tools in vet telehealth.

  • Administration of drugs
  • Mandatory physical examinations
  • Use of imaging techniques to diagnose a patient
  • Surgical procedures, etc

In the future, some technologies such as wearables (with remote sensors) can eliminate the need for certain kinds of physical examinations and diagnostic imaging.

Some vets have shown concerns about telehealth, saying that they wouldn’t be able to fully diagnose a condition. Unknown to them, they are already using telehealth in the form of emailing, texting, phone calls, and video calls. 

In conclusion, I believe that the benefits of telehealth for pets outweighs the concerns that either pet owners or vets may have. 

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