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As society has collectively started to lean more on telehealth, the industry has come to include our pets as well. And why not? No matter how much we love our dogs, vet visits are expensive in a special kind of way. Basically, if you’re on your way to the vet, be prepared to pay $100 just to walk through the door. Don’t even get us started on emergency vets — they’re another level. Yet, no matter what, the crazy pet parents among us (guilty!) will find a way to pay it every single time.
But now, the tables have turned. With the evolution of telehealth and telemedicine services, a vet isn’t just a phone call away, inevitably ending with a visit on the calendar. Instead, they’re also a video call away, which will help you to diagnose minor problems, like why your cat is vomiting at midnight while the vet’s office is closed.
Telemedicine vs. Telehealth
First, let’s address the difference between Telehealth and Telemedicine. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP):
Telemedicine is the practice of medicine using technology to deliver care at a distance. A physician in one location uses a telecommunications infrastructure to provide care to a patient at a distant site.
Telehealth refers to electronic and telecommunications technologies and services used to provide care and services at a distance.
What’s the difference? The AAFP explains: “Telehealth is different from telemedicine in that it refers to a broader scope of remote health care services than telemedicine. Telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services, while telehealth can refer to remote non-clinical services.”
Should You Stay or Should You Go?
Telehealth has boomed in the last two years thanks to the pandemic, and pet owners are finding it easier to have simple questions answered over the phone versus a painful and traumatic visit to the vet. There can (and should) still be a Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship, or VCPR, according to American Veterinarian Medical Association, through telehealth, and that’s a plus for pet owners.
A telemedicine appointment isn’t intended to replace an in-person visit entirely and shouldn’t be used as an overall treatment plan. Be sure to make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. Telehealth can’t fix an emergency or administer aid if needed, so always know where to go if your vet’s office is closed.
Reasons You Should Use Telemedicine:
- You have a non-emergency and need advice
- If you’re curious about your pet’s behavior (scratching, licking)
- You’re worried your pet may be sick, but it’s not serious
- You need help learning how to clip your pet’s nails properly
- Your pet just ate something, and you’re wondering if you should go to the vet
Reasons You Should See Your Vet:
- Your pet is injured
- You know your pet ate something toxic
- Your pet is listless and unresponsive
As for cost, while telehealth visits range from $17-$49 per video chat and meeting, a trip to the vet’s office can often be much more. Depending on what level of care your pet requires, leave it up to you and your wallet if you’d like to stay home and talk to a vet via video or the phone. In some cases, the vet can be helpful over the phone and give you advice on how to help your pet immediately, which will leave you with more knowledge for next time. For example, perhaps your pet is sick in the middle of the night; they can help explain what should happen next, such as if you should go to an emergency hospital now or if it can wait until morning.
There are short-term benefits to video chatting with your vet: they can help do a preliminary scan for any problems and recommend services, and you can learn more about treating your pet on your own, which is a win-win for you and your furry best friend. Unless your pet requires immediate care, telehealth visits are worth the cost. A telehealth subscription or paying the flat fee is worth it for quick questions and fast solutions.
Check out some of the best telemedicine services for pets below, and help treat your pet and yourself.
BEST FOR EMERGENCIES
COST: Varies by practice
This service is excellent for pet owners whose vets are in-network. Create a profile, enter your and your pet’s information, such as breed, weight and age, and fill out the questions about your pet’s current issues. A vet will likely get back to you within 10 minutes. Pricing and appointment times vary. This service is available for android and iOS.
BEST FLAT FEE
COST: $30 per session
This service is excellent for emergencies because who wants to deal with a sick pet late at night all by themselves? Available as an app, this service connects you directly to a vet for $30 a session. With a flat fee, this makes it a great go-to for emergency scenarios when you and your pet are both panicking. This service also works with your in-house vet, but if they’re not available at the moment, the “Need Help Now” feature is this app’s biggest perk. Fill in your pet’s vital information to get started and find help within minutes.
BEST FOR ORGANIZING
COST: App organization is free; visits vary
Suppose you’re into organizing your pet’s information. In that case, PetDesk is a great service for you to consider, even when you don’t have a pressing question for your vet. The To-Do tab allows you to store all of your pet’s previous health records, medications and other important documents in one safe place. As well as connecting you to your in-house vet, this app allows you to stay up to date on everything about your pet on the go. While vet visits incur a fee, the folder for your pet’s information is free to use. The best feature for this service is the immediate helpline: it directs you via video call to an established vet.
BEST EMERGENCY FUND
COST: $19 per month
Pawp is another excellent service for emergency questions, and your vet isn’t in the office or in town. If you have a burning need for an answer, Pawp will connect you to someone who can help immediately. Fill out the forms about your pet’s health and hang tight for a quick phone call or video chat. Another perk about Pawp is the emergency fund that grows in your account: up to $3,000 in funds are available for you to use on your pet. Sweet perk, right? Let Pawp do the heavy lifting while you care for your pet.
5. Whisker Docs
COST: $40 per call, $17 subscription service
Whisker Docs works the same way as the other telemedicine services listed here except for the high flat fee of $40 for an instant call or chat. It has a $17 per month subscription service that works well and gives you the same amount of speedy information as one call. This is a good option for pet owners interested in unlimited information via subscription service.
6. Chewy Connect with a Vet
BEST FOR CHEWY SUBSCRIBERS
COST: Free for Chewy Autoship Members
For Chewy subscribers, it’s effortless to contact a vet within minutes for an emergency or pressing question. Log on to the site, enter your pet’s information, and hang tight while someone gets back to you. It’s of no extra cost for Autoship members (which is free to sign up for), so this might just be the best deal you’ll find for telemedicine without added costs. The only downside to this service? The hours. It operates from 8 am to 8 pm EST and isn’t available in certain states.