Last Updated on January 18, 2022 by Dogs Vets
What to Know About Telemedicine and Pet Insurance Alternatives
Let’s be honest: sometimes it can be genuinely complicated to pay a visit to a vet. Suppose you live in an area where the nearest vet clinic is miles away.
Or your certified vet doesn’t work 24/7, and you don’t have a chance to get an alternative consultation. And sometimes, your dog is just not eating, and you hesitate to rush to a vet ASAP or wait for a few days to see if your pup’s loss of appetite persists.
Or you can be unsure whether a flea medication is right for your kitten. By chance, you can also be hesitant whether your dog’s lump is an emergency or not.
In the last years, pet telemedicine has been on the rise, presenting the earlier non-existing technological solutions for pet parents. Using online vet services has become more accessible than ever before.
The good news is that you can evaluate the urgency of your pet’s health issue and find out whether it’s an emergency or not.
While the growth of pet telemedicine is enormous, there are still significant differences between human and pet telemedicine.
In this article, let’s find out how online vets work, what you can expect from a virtual visit, and when taking a pet to a “real” veterinarian is a better option.
Telemedicine for pets
Services that provide telemedicine for pets work variously, from one platform to another. Some may be free of charge; others require you to pay for each inquiry you make.
For instance, Petcube’s Online Vet teletriage offers a subscription model for $19.99/month.
The former options also vary depending on the quality of service you get, while the latter guarantees 24/7 access to certified online veterinarians, personalized care, and follow-ups.
Please note that teletriage stands for providing supplemental care, which doesn’t replace your usual relationships with a vet.
The key benefit of veterinary telemedicine services is that most vet appointments and subsequent visits could be just chats.
For instance, you can clarify if your Fido’s excessive barking is quirky or expected behavior.
In some cases, users of online vet services can also ask any questions regarding the prescribed medications or dietary changes. As a whole, professional online veterinary specialists provide excellent care when it comes to non-emergency and behavior-related questions.
Besides clarifications on whether the situation is emergent, some of the major benefits of online veterinary are:
- Get health and behavior-related consultation from real specialists, not pet forums or shady websites.
- More flexible hours and a generally better convenience of accessing a veterinarian from the comfort of your home.
- You can quickly clarify whether your furry friend needs emergent care or it’s something that can be solved with a few-minute consultation.
- When choosing a decent service provider, you get a relatively low-cost consultation compared to traditional vet receipts.
- When contacting an online veterinary, you get an almost instantaneous response, which you won’t get when driving to the nearest vet clinic.
While the perks of pet telemedicine are apparent, there are also a few cases when you should still consider taking a drive to your vet. Because online veterinarians, even having a qualified certification, cannot prescribe medications, it’s something that you should do with your regular vet. Also, online veterinary cannot handle emergencies.
So if your pup or cat is wounded or shows severe symptoms, an online vet can only indicate the need to rush to your veterinarian or a clinic.
When should you contact an online vet?
Another question pet owners should ask themselves is: when it’s appropriate to contact an online veterinarian. As we’ve mentioned earlier, emergencies are best handled during real-life visits.
However, the competitive edge of vet telemedicine lies in its approach to pet wellness.
More precisely, you can drop a line to an online specialist to clarify a vast array of factors, ranging from nutrition and behavior challenges to playing time and patient-specific cases.
If your dog started coughing or throwing up, there are many reasons behind this behavior.
In some cases, an immediate drive to a clinic is a must. While in others, an online consultation will suffice to clarify the underlying reasons behind such behavior.
Inquiries like vomiting or diarrhea are widespread, and the reasons can range from a mild stomach upset to toxicity or organ failures.
That’s why having an option to drop a line to a qualified specialist can be so helpful for such common inquiries. Because all veterinarians are trained to evaluate the urgency of each particular case, online consultation can save you lots of time and money if the case is non-urgent.
Also, let’s not forget that online chats can be a great source of information regarding preventive care.
If you have any questions about tick or flea medications, it’s undoubtedly the best option to discuss them face-to-face with your veterinarian.
In turn, online services can serve you a great deal by guiding online resources, trademarks, or even product suggestions.
Don’t hesitate to ask as many questions as you have since a specialist on the line is eager to consult pet parents on such issues.
And what about emergency cases?
As we’ve discussed in the case of dog diarrhea or vomiting, the issue can be more than just a tummy upset. What if it’s something more severe, such as intoxication or a liver failure?
This way, the treatment price can reach hundreds of dollars, a sum you might not expect to pay during a single visit.
While there is an option to purchase vet insurance, some of such plans don’t cover emergency visits and unexpected costs that follow.
Because no one is safe from emergencies, which can happen to any pet parent, alternatives to traditional pet insurance exist. Such services cover unexpected injuries, traumas, blockages, and other serious situations requiring immediate medical attention.
Take Emergency Fund as an example. With this online service, you get a combination of online teletriage and financial coverage for any life-threatening emergency that might happen with your pet.
The process is simple, at first, talk with an online veterinarian to discuss whether the issue is emergent. Once a professional vet confirms the emergency case and activates your fund, you rush into any pet clinic nearby and get the necessary help.
You collect the receipt with a final vet visit cost and get this amount reimbursed shortly after all treatments are done the very same day, so that you don’t need to pay from your pocket.
With the Emergency Fund we’ve mentioned, the total coverage equals $3,000 yearly, a decent sum covering any unforeseen expenses.
However, even such services come with rules and regulations, usually highlighting covered incidents.
As mentioned earlier, all unexpected and severe medical conditions that require immediate treatment are compensated, this means your case should be a life-treatening accident to be covered by the fund, and the situation is the opposite regarding planned surgeries and scheduled appointments.
As for the pre-existing conditions, there are no limitations on this regard, as life-threatening accidents can happen to any pet, this can be a great relief for some pet parents.
When should I take my pet to a veterinarian?
Contacting a qualified specialist online works well for nutrition, behavior, and general wellness questions.
However, there are dozens of cases when an online consultation won’t do any good. Some of the common conditions that require immediate attention in a vet clinic are:
- Severe vomiting, diarrhea, or eating disorders lasting for more than a day;
- Accidental injuries or any traumatic events involving limping;
- Open wounds, bleeding, or any related injuries;
- Difficulty breathing, extreme coughing, and fast respiratory rate;
- Seizures, paralysis, or other neurological damage;
- Broken bones;
- An insect sting or bite;
- Foreign body ingestion;
- And many, many more.
As you can see, a range of worrying symptoms is enormous, ranging from accidents to pre-existing conditions that can even be fatal.
If you observe that any of the mentioned cases are minor, don’t waste time and contact an online veterinarian to confirm the emergency case in minutes. Then, it’s time to rush to a hospital and get the much-needed care and treatment if any traumatic events occur.
Even though pet telemedicine is still developing by continually creating new formats and services, its rise has been significant over the past few years.
Right now, pet parents are welcome to use such services as Online Vet or Emergency fund as a teletriage or an alternative to pet insurance, accordingly.
The good news is that they operate as subscription services, usually costing less than a regular receipt from a vet clinic.
This article covered all the essential information you need to know about pet telemedicine. While the difference between human and pet telemedicine care exist, this format has a bright future for pet parents around the globe.
After all, having unlimited access to a qualified vet to clarify the questions of nutrition, behavior, and wellness is priceless.
As a final reminder, please remember that such services are best described as triage, offering supplemental care.
In other words, don’t break the veterinary-client-patient relationship yet since visiting your vet might still be needed. If you’re a pet parent yourself, you’ll indeed have peace of mind, especially in situations when getting to a vet is seriously complicated.
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