— Leslie R. Dye, MD, Treasurer, NGWPR
In this new Corona Virus age, veterinary telehealth is the new norm. Veterinary clinics are limiting physical appointments, and those clinics seeing patients often collect the pet, leaving the owner to wait for the vet’s telephone call with information about their four-legged family member’s health. As more people shelter in place, veterinary telehealth care is finding its place.
For some veterinarians, this new world is a dream come true — the patients are fun- it’s the owners who make clinic visits difficult.
According to a study by HABRI of practitioners:
- 85% agree that human interaction with pets reduces loneliness
- 76% say human-pet interactions reduce social isolation
Veterinary Telemedicine with VCPR
Some veterinary hospitals offer their own telemedicine services for existing clients and use the doctors in the practice or they may contract with outside veterinarians. Available care ranges from telephone calls, text messaging, online chats, email consultation and virtual visits with video conferencing programs. The advantage is that they have access to the pet’s previous record and there is an existing Veterinary-Client-Patient Relationships (VCPR). Not only does the veterinarian know the pet, but he/she understands the personality and capability of the owner.
Situations where telemedicine may be useful
- Chronic, recurrent issues like flea allergies or behavior problems
2. Minor acute problems
3. Follow-up care like post-surgical checks or visits for chronic medical problems
4. Annual exam required to prescribe annual flea/tick or heartworm prevention medication, without any vaccinations required
5. Prescription refills
6. Palliative care
7. After hours and visits requiring triage information
Veterinary online services without VCPR
Online services like VetChat, VetCoach Live, Ask.Vet, Wag!, PetCoach, Fuzzy Pet Health, Connect with a Vet, and WhiskerDocs are some of the third-party services that mostly offer 24/7 consults regardless of any previous VCPR. However, these companies can legally only offer general advice and triage services. Many also provide online libraries with health information.
Any licensed vet can decline a remote consult and declare it an emergency or advise a pet owner to seek in-person care for a proper diagnosis. While these services can be useful, it is important to read the fine print and recognize the limitations.
The pricing structure is usually either a fixed price for one consultation or a subscription price that allows unlimited access. Pricing can vary depending on the platform used. An email may be less expensive than an online chat. Or the price may vary depending on how many photos are included.
Remember, these companies can legally only offer general advice and triage services.
Examples of pricing:
· Library of information available
· Can talk to “WhiskerDocs veterinary telehealth specialist” 24/7
o Call now $39.99, Chat $39.99
o Email $4.99 with “most messages answered within 4 hours.”
o Unlimited anytime: $16.99/month or $129/year
· Banfield Pet Hospital Wichita, KS
· One time $19.99, 3-month subscription unlimited chats $29.99
Wag! Health Cost
· Request a chat with a vet at any time for $30
· Subscribe for $9.99/month with first month free
PetCoach by PetCo
· Single question with up to 3 photos and single answer online for $5
o Answer visible to others
· $20 for private, in-depth consult with vet
o Unlimited text and photos
Fuzzy Pet Health
· Triage and general pet health advice through live chat through website or app
· 6am-10pm PST, 7 days/week
· 15-minute virtual exam is $25
· 30-minute behavior or training is $30
Obviously, there are downsides to any virtual visit. For those without a VCPR, there are no medical records that illustrate the pet’s medical history and there is no previous owner/veterinarian relationship. Images may be of poor quality and time zone issues may limit the ability for a rapid response to a question. Regardless of the previous relationship, virtual visits are limited by the inability for the clinician to palpate masses or smell discharges, drainage, etc. But the examiner can always have the owner take the animal in to be seen, if there are any concerns.
Internet Health Information
Knowledge is power, or is it?
Many pet owners search the Internet for health information, especially when they are not concerned about an emergency. In the age of data overload, it is difficult to determine which information is accurate and reliable. Not only is there information that is not supported by science, but some recommendations are dangerous. However, the Internet does have reputable sources for pet care, but how does one determine which ones are good?
The first rule is to never hesitate to call your veterinarian before consulting the Internet. If you really want to be safe and prepared, ask your veterinarian for trusted sites as soon as you take your animal in for the first check-up, before there is a problem. If an issue arises after hours, you will know which sites are trusted and can consult them with some degree of comfort.
If you are evaluating a site and it is reviewed by a “doctor,” be sure that the reviewer is someone who graduated from an accredited veterinary medical school. For a list of those accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education, go to https://www.avma.org/sites/default/files/2020-11/Accredited-Colleges-November-2020.pdf.
The first rule is to never hesitate to call your veterinarian before consulting the Internet.
- The site offers medication that normally requires a prescription (Rimadyl, Deramaxx, etc.), yet the site tells you they can provide the medication without a prescription.
They may be selling illegal, unapproved, or counterfeit medications.
These compounds can contain chemicals that may be harmful to your pet.
The FDA rules require that prescription drugs only be used by order of a veterinarian.
2. The site offers advice for diagnosis or treatment by information provided only online or by telephone
This is unethical, and in many states, is illegal
Again, this may be harmful to your pet
3. The site promotes a “homemade” remedy for pet health problems or a remedy that they sell
While there are several sites that offer sound advice, they should never be a substitute for your own veterinarian.
Lottie Long Legs is owned by Nicola Spink, an artist in the UK, who donates a portion of her profits to animal rescue organizations, including the NGWP rescue. We are grateful for her support.
National GWP Rescue is a nationwide rescue program whose volunteers work tirelessly to provide funding, foster homes, medical care and training for GWPs found in shelters, animal control facilities and to those GWPs whose current owners are unable to provide a suitable situation.
Working hand- in-hand with governmental and local shelters, NGWPR provides a safe and responsible home for GWP’s in need. Placed with an experienced GWPCA member, fostered GWPs that have been neglected, untrained or have medical issues quickly blossom as they are readied for their “forever” homes.
Prior to releasing our rescued GWPs for adoption, volunteers provide obedience, manners, and house training. We hold to the philosophy that a mannerly dog has a better chance of fitting into a new household.
NGWPR believes that Wires were designed to hunt and unlike some other rescue programs, we are happy to place dogs with field experience or bird instinct with potential owners who enjoy hunting behind a Wire. However, NGWPR insists that any rescue dog first be a house dog and companion, then a weekend hunting partner.
Please go to our website to learn more.
PLEASE REMEMBER THE NATIONAL GERMAN WIREHAIRED POINTER RESCUE AS YOU CONSIDER YOUR END OF THE YEAR TAX- DEDUCTIBLE DONATIONS, AND HAVE A HEALTHY SAFE HOLIDAY
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