Veterinary Virtual Care - FAQ
Veterinary virtual care may seem like a new concept, but it’s actually been around for many years. You may have heard the terms “telemedicine” or “teletriage” and wondered how they can be used to help you care for your pet. These forms of electronic, remote consults allow you to seek professional veterinary advice from the comfort of your home, or anywhere you have internet access - even if it's in the middle of the night or while you’re away on vacation. Here we answer some of your most common questions regarding the use of virtual care (telemedicine and teletriage) for your pet.
This article was written by a FirstVet vet
Did you know that FirstVet offers video calls with experienced vets? You can get a consultation within 30 minutes by downloading the FirstVet app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine involves the exchange of medical information (advice, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment) between a licensed medical professional and a client/patient, using an electronic device like a tablet or smartphone. Medical professionals must comply with laws and regulations in the state in which they are licensed. In order for a veterinarian to perform telemedicine services, there must be an established veterinary-client-patient-relationship (VCPR). This typically means that the veterinarian has seen the patient in his or her practice within the past 12 months and is familiar with the client and pet. With an existing VCPR, the veterinarian providing the telemedicine consult is legally allowed to provide you with a diagnosis (when applicable), prescribe medications, and give a prognosis for your pet’s condition.
What is teletriage?
Teletriage involves the exchange of general medical information between a licensed medical professional and a client/patient using an electronic device like a tablet or smartphone. Veterinarians providing teletriage services can provide timely assessment and management of pet patients but, without a VCPR, cannot provide a diagnosis, prescribe medications, or give a prognosis for the animal’s condition. Teletriage is meant to help pet owners make good, safe decisions for their pet’s health. This is especially helpful if you’re unable to make a timely appointment with your regular vet, or if you’re not able to leave your home for any reason. Your teletriage vet will be able to help you determine if your pet needs to be seen at an emergency clinic right away or if you can manage your pet’s condition at home.
How does virtual care work?
Services such as FirstVet allow you to easily download an app and set up an account with your pet’s information right from your tablet or smartphone. You’ll be asked to answer a few questions about your pet’s health and any concerns that you may have. You can even upload pictures or videos of your pet when applicable.
Next, you’ll make an appointment to meet with one of our vets! During your scheduled video call, your FirstVet vet will speak to you about your concerns, answer your questions, and help you solve your pet’s health concerns. You may receive recommendations for at-home treatments and monitoring, or be referred to a local emergency clinic if your pet needs more urgent care. The veterinarian’s medical notes and recommendations will be emailed to the address you provided when creating your account!
For more information on preparing for your pet's virtual care appointment, read more here.
What are the benefits of virtual care for my pet?
Telemedicine and teletriage services have become a valuable resource in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual visits limit contact between hospital staff members and clients, lowering the chances of spreading the virus.
Besides the public health benefits, virtual care is designed to make your day (or night) easier! Scheduling a teletriage appointment allows you to seek professional advice for your pet when you’re unable to leave your home for any reason. Or what if your pet is terrified to get into her carrier or ride along in your vehicle? Speaking with a virtual vet can help you decide if a trip to your local clinic is necessary or if you can manage Fluffy’s illness at home without additional stress.
Virtual care appointments are often fast, efficient, and can be scheduled on your time. This can be really helpful when you have urgent questions but can’t get into your regular vet right away. Or what about late at night? Or on the weekend? Speaking with a FirstVet vet can give you peace of mind when you have an after-hours emergency.
What types of questions and concerns can a virtual vet help me with?
Telemedicine and teletriage consults can be used for an endless number of scenarios:
- General wellness advice - Get answers to questions about your puppy’s vaccines, deworming, or upcoming neuter.
- Post-surgical questions - Discuss your concerns regarding your pet’s recovery from surgery, how to care for wounds, and how to monitor for signs of pain or infection.
- Injury or illness - Discover options for safely treating or monitoring your pet at home and gain peace of mind if your pet can wait to be seen by your regular vet at a later time. Receive a referral if your pet should be seen at an emergency clinic right away.
- Hospice care - Get expert advice without having to bring your senior pet into a clinic. Ask a professional about your difficult questions regarding quality of life and end-of-life planning for your pet from the comfort of your home.
- After-hours care - You have access to experienced vets any time of day or night. If your town doesn’t have an emergency clinic, get advice from a virtual vet before traveling to the nearest 24-hour facility.
Will I speak to a licensed veterinarian?
Yes! When you log on to your appointment with FirstVet, you will be speaking with an experienced, licensed veterinarian!
Have more questions?
Book a video appointment to chat with one of our vets.