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The Ins and Outs of Veterinary Telehealth

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Veterinary telehealth and virtual veterinary visits are a convenient option for handling minor pet health issues, giving pet parents the chance to get professional care without leaving the house. Thanks to incredible progress in digital technology and veterinary medicine, telehealth services are becoming increasingly popular.

Key Terms

To better understand the concept of virtual care for your pet and how it operates, it's important to familiarize yourself with these key terms.

Telehealth for Pets

Veterinary telehealth is the overarching term that encompasses all uses of technology to remotely deliver veterinary health information, education, or care. Some of those categories include telemedicine, teletriage, teleconsulting, and teleadvice, among others.

Telemedicine for Pets

Telemedicine falls under the umbrella of telehealth and is a specialized form of veterinary care that requires a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship. However, in emergency situations, telemedicine can be used to provide advice until the patient can be physically examined by a veterinarian. Veterinarians who practice telemedicine have the capability to diagnose diseases, prescribe medications, and offer treatment recommendations.

Teletriage for Pets

Teletriage is a specific type of telehealth that focuses on the evaluation of pets by consulting with their caretakers electronically. Teletriage does not need an established Veterinary-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR) and can be conducted by different veterinary professionals. However, teletriage does have limitations. Generally speaking, teletriage cannot be used to diagnose a disease or condition, prescribe any sort of medication (even over-the-counter preparations), or recommend treatment other than basic home care.

Teleadvice for Pets

Teleadvice involves receiving general guidance about your pet's health through phone calls, texts, or online. This advice doesn't diagnose or treat a specific problem but might include suggestions like scheduling regular checkups for your pet or giving them medicine to prevent certain health issues.

Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR)

The Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR) is a formal bond that forms between the veterinarian, the pet parent, and the pet. This relationship is established when your veterinarian becomes familiar with your pet's medical needs and is able to provide accurate diagnoses and appropriate treatment. To establish this relationship, the veterinarian will gather extensive information about your pet's health history and perform thorough examinations to establish a baseline for future care. A VCPR is established only when your veterinarian examines your animal in person every 12 months, or more often as dictated by the age or medical condition of the pet.

Benefits of Telehealth

Telehealth can fill in the gaps between in-person vet appointments and provide added benefits for your four-legged companion. It can be especially helpful when it comes to:

  • Pets who are scared, stressed, or hard to manage in the car or at the veterinarian’s’ office.
  • Access to on-site, in-person veterinary care is limited, or you live in an area where veterinary care is difficult to obtain.
  • An emergency occurs after hours or during the weekend when the office is closed.
  • A second or third opinion is being sought after having consulted with a prior veterinarian.
  • Excessive wait times at an emergency hospital.
  • Your usual veterinarian cannot fit you in for an appointment for days or weeks.
  • You want more information prior to seeing an in-person veterinarian.

By incorporating telehealth into your pet's care routine, you can conveniently access the information necessary to provide them with optimal care, right from the comfort of your own home.

What Telehealth Can Help With

Veterinary telehealth can help with health issues like:

  • New pet advice
  • Nutritional questions
  • Behavior problems
  • Minor illnesses or injuries
  • Skin problems
  • Dental health
  • Managing chronic conditions
  • Postoperative care
  • Hospice care

Since the safety and well-being of your pet come first, it's possible that a visit to an animal hospital may still be necessary after the telemedicine appointment. However, the telemedicine veterinarian can assess the situation initially, inform you about what might be happening, give you guidance on the next steps to be taken at the animal hospital, and set your pet on the road to recovery.

What Telehealth Cannot Help With

It’s important to know that not all pet health problems can be solved remotely, and telemedicine is no substitute for physical evaluation and care in an emergency where the pet is seriously injured.

In some cases, your pet might have a serious health issue that requires a veterinarian’s immediate attention in person. These issues include trauma, excessive bleeding, broken bones, difficulty breathing, seizures, heatstroke, sudden loss of mobility, severe allergic reactions, and more.

If it’s clear to you that your pet is actively experiencing an emergency, call your veterinarian immediately. Obtaining timely treatment for your pet in an emergency improves the chances for a good outcome.

An ASPCA® Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today. The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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