This past year has given new meaning to the term “essential business,” but medical services, for people and pets, have always been deemed as such.
Even though people could break their quarantines if they needed medical attention, more people, veterinary clinics and pet companies have turned to telemedicine for its overall convenience. Chewy recently announced updates to its telehealth service, Connect with a Vet, which was created due to the demands of the pandemic. Walmart’s new pet insurance plan offers access to virtual vet appointments. Banfield Pet Hospital, which works with PetSmart, saw chats on its telehealth service, Vet Chat, double from mid-March to the end of 2020.
Even though telemedicine is convenient and offers broader access to important pet health services, it has its limitations. Of course, certain ailments, such as vomiting or diarrhea, require in-person attention. Unlike humans, dogs can’t express themselves verbally. Sure, signs can indicate a pet’s discomfort, but pet parents can’t explain their pet’s symptoms in the way they can describe their own. Pets may also be camera shy, and may not offer up the best view for veterinarians to properly diagnose what’s going on.
On top of the these challenges, veterinarian clinics have also experienced an influx of patients. Most telehealth appointments need to be scheduled after hours, according to one vet office, which also revealed that telehealth appointments hadn’t been conducted on a regular basis. There are also many veterinarians that have not yet dabbled, or needed to dabble, in the world of telemedicine.
For now, telemedicine for pets is still in its early stages. While it can't be relied on in place of in-person care, telemedicine for pets is clearly a service that resonates with pet owners and shows no signs of slowing down.