Veterinary Telemedicine: How Can It Help Your Pet’s Medical Problems?

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Pet telemedicine

Knowing when your pet is not feeling well is pretty easy to detect. Knowing what to do about it is an entirely different challenge. If you start stressing out about your pet’s unknown health problem, more than likely, your furry friend will pick up on your anxiety and start to get anxious too. This just adds to the original ailment, and pretty soon you both have made yourselves sicker from trying to determine what exactly the problem is, and what to do about it. I have done the Google around, search endlessly on the internet for answers, check chat rooms etc. more than once; it is painful, time-consuming and can be expensive, especially if vet visits are needed for professional feedback. Compounding the problem even further, we now have Covid challenges that make vet visits challenging navigate, and sometimes downright impossible to schedule. Alas, there is a better way! Insert Veterinary Telemedicine. This post is all about Veterinary Telemedicine and how it can help your pet’s medical problems.

What exactly is veterinary telemedicine?

Basically, vet telemedicine is virtual healthcare for pets. You can video, text or email with a Veterinarian to get expert feedback on your pet’s issue. The best part of it, you can get the feedback right away. I don’t know what it is, but many of my kitty cats’ challenges happened after hours, so the vet was closed. Animal hospitals are a great back-up in the case of extreme issues, but they can be costly for something you just aren’t sure is an emergency.

Telemedicine for pets

Since the coronavirus pandemic shook the world by surprise, vet tech and telemedicine is probably here to stay – yay! These tele services come in handy for all types of situations and seem to be popping up more and more.

I have used telemedicine for myself, but not for my kitty cat Finnegan. I was very curious about these virtual vet services because my experience with telemedicine was fantastic. I was able to video conference with my doctor, receive valuable feedback and even get updates via emails, which was so easy and helpful. All of this from the comfort of home!

Although Finn has not had any issues recently (knock on wood) that require a visit, (except his every other month pawdicure) I know as he ages, health issues could arise. So I reached out to GuardianVets to find out if my vet should be using telemedicine, and here is what I found out.

GuardianVets

GuardianVets.com is a service that is oriented towards serving your vet, so you would not be working with them directly. GuardianVets set up all types of great services that can make your vet’s life much simpler while increasing the quality of your pet’s healthcare. The provide a variety of services that fall under the virtual medicine umbrella including Triage, Telemedicine, Curbside Service and more.

I went directly to the source with a few questions that shed light on telemedicine, the benefits and how it can improve the overall quality of your Veterinarian workload and your pet’s health.

Veterinary Regional Director, Holly Sawyer provided me with some helpful insights!

I added how the features can benefit you and your cat or dog.

ME: What is the biggest benefit for Veterinarians who work at animal clinics and pet hospitals offering telemedicine?

DR. SAWYER: The benefits to the DVM of clinics that offer telemedicine (through an integrated software app) are three-fold:

  • An official pipeline of communication is established. Because it is official, it is easier to keep track of conversations, integrate into the medical record, and capture financial compensation for the veterinarian’s time and expertise by adding a simple payment step into the workflow. The DVM can choose to charge or not charge for their time, but the paradigm is set that communication with the veterinarian involves a value-for-value transaction. 

Tracking of your conversation with the Vet plus any fees associated with the feedback.

  • With asynchronous (texting-based) conversations, the veterinarian has the freedom to choose when to respond and move the conversation forward based on his schedule. He can navigate around the immoveable parts of his day (in-clinic exams, procedures, and surgeries) and still touch base with pet owners in succinct, focused ways. Photos and videos of the pet can be shared in the text stream to aid in the evaluation. 

Efficient processes providing your Vet more time to work with you virtually, even if he has a busy schedule. Videos and pictures can be texted to you! This would be ideal if your cat or dog is with the Vet for surgery or to show progress etc. Your Vet can also send you images of what to look for if he is trying to help you identify specific ailments.

  • Due to this flexible communication schedule, case management and patient care can be fine-tuned with faster, more frequent check ups while allowing the veterinarian to check off more To Do’s during the day because she can skip the in-person exam on appropriate cases. 

Eliminates in person visits which can minimize expenses and wasted time going to the vet.

ME: When is it most appropriate for pet owners to take advantage of telemedicine?

DR. SAWYER:

  • Rechecks for ongoing medical management and post-op progress checks. Examples of this include: adjusting the insulin dose based on a home glucose curve for a diabetic cat, assessing an arthritis dog’s response to NSAID treatment, or checking the incision and gait of a 7-day post-ACL surgery dog. 
  • Medication questions.
  • Nutrition questions.
  • Behavior questions.
  • Simple conditions (repeated seasonal itching without redness or hair loss; short-term weight-bearing lameness; new-onset, mild diarrhea).
  • When the pet gets too stressed coming into the clinic (for qualifying issues, at the veterinarian’s discretion).
  • When the pet owner cannot bring the animal to the clinic (due to travel, illness, mobility issues, etc.)

All of these can help pet owners minimize wasted time, unnecessary fees and stressing a pet out. Virtual health can be a wonderful supplement to in person appointments or as replacements to the visits all together.

ME: When is it more appropriate for a pet owner to use the in-person visits as opposed to speaking to her Vet virtually?

DR. SAWYER:

  • Any time a vet, during a virtual visit, determines the pet needs to be evaluated in the clinic (meaning you can certainly start with telemedicine if you aren’t sure). Veterinarians can be trusted to know which cases they need to put their hands on. 
  • Any time an initial treatment based on a telemedicine consult has not succeeded. 
  • Any time a pet is triaged as “unstable” (dehydrated, disoriented, respiratory distress, active bleeding, acute trauma, moderate to severe pain or lethargy, your spidey sense is tingling, etc.).
  • Any time diagnostic tests will be needed (skin scrape, fecal cytology, bloodwork, imaging, ECG, etc.). 
  • Any time hospital treatment is needed (IV fluids, IV injections, hospitalization/observation, oxygen therapy, surgery, etc.)
  • The weirder, more complex, or more severe the signs, the better off that pet is being examined in person

To sum up, virtual health for pets can be an excellent way for your pet to get quality care without having to go to an in-person appointment. As a cat owner, I know firsthand how challenging it can be to get a pet to their vet appointments. Cats are especially carrier adverse and on top of it, their stress levels rise significantly when they get to the clinic. Stress in a kitty cat can result in inaccurate test results in their urine and blood. Due to the stress of the visit, many cats who should have vet consultation never even make it to their appointments. Virtual health for felines is going to help increase the quality of a cat’s life by giving owners a way to get professional feedback without all the anxiety inducers that come with an in person visit.

There are many resources outside your regular vet that you can use if your vet does not have telemedicine yet. Requesting virtual healthcare from your primary cat or dog doctor is the best way to get vets up and running with this valuable technology!

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