Note: When you’ve reached out to a veterinarian (or an online veterinarian such as VetMoms®), for your pet’s telehealth appointment; whether its by chat, phone, or videocall, here are some VetMoms® quick tips to make the most of your time (and theirs!):
- BE PREPARED! A thorough history is so important that some might even say its half the diagnosis! If you use an online information service, such as VetMoms®, your online veterinarian will not be familiar with your pet. Therefore, to prepare, try and have your pet’s medical history handy, or at least as much as you can remember. This way you can fill out a “brief” history form before your chat, or if there is none, you can be prepared to let your online or telehealth veterinarian know important basics such as:
- Species, breed, sex, and age of your pet
- Whether or not your pet is spayed or neutered! It makes a difference if your intact female dog was in heat 60 days ago, or whether your cat is currently nursing kittens
- Your pet’s vaccination status (especially for puppies and kittens…we need to know whether your pet has had any vaccines, which ones, and when- to help both rule out or to consider infectious diseases
- Your pet’s lifestyle…is he an active mostly outdoor dog, or an overweight, indoor couch potato? Does your cat live outside, or inside, or a little of both? Does your dog rummage in the trash regularly? Does your cat hunt and bring you the prizes?
- Any major previous illness, injury, or surgery that your pet has had
- Any previous allergies to medications or to food or environmental factors
- Note: Please keep in mind that the telehealth vet doesn’t need all pages of your pet’s full history. Your primary veterinarian should address long-term health issues, medication changes, diagnostic test estimates, etc.
- PRESENT THE PROBLEM in order of importance. Although you might be concerned that your cat sneezes occasionally, if he/she hasn’t eaten for 3 days or your male cat is just laying lethargic in the litterbox without moving, please state this first! Try to narrow down the problem (s) to the most important thing(s) first. If you feel the online veterinarian needs to see something about your pet, such as a wound or growth, feel free to take a picture or even a short video and upload that as well.
- STAY CALM
We totally understand you are worried about your pet. We totally get it…they are our family members and you may be extremely concerned, worried, or even scared to death!
- If you think it’s an EMERGENCY: if your pet is having a seizure, or can’t breathe right, or is choking, or just got hit by a car…please get off the computer as soon as possible and call a veterinary emergency clinic or veterinary hospital. By doing this, you will get critical information quicker, and directions to the clinic, all much faster than waiting online for a vet! There is never a guarantee that you will be able to reach an online veterinarian in time AND there is never a guarantee that they can possibly say or do anything over the phone (or online) to be able to help you with a true emergency.
- If you are not sure whether it’s a true emergency, but you think it’s safe to spend some time trying to get online or get telehealth information:
1) then have a backup plan just in case you can’t reach anyone and your pet is worsening
2) if you do reach an online veterinarian and they suggest you take your pet to the emergency vet, please expedite your online consult to start making phone calls and arrangements.
- Remember, if you are hysterical or upset, it’s going to be harder for your vet to understand you and provide help for your pet. Try to take a deep breath and count to 10 before calling or typing, so you can better provide the information needed, and also so that you can fully hear and absorb the vet’s information and recommendations.
- We do know that pets can pick up on our emotions and anxiety. If your pet is injured or in pain, a soothing, calm manner and voice may help him or her to relax as well.
- MONEY – Why isn’t the service free?
Any professional advice of any kind is rarely free. With the average student loan debt for veterinarians now over $200K, and the hours of work oftentimes much more than the average work week, the professional must charge for their time. However, many veterinary telehealth platforms exist for a very reasonable price such as VetMoms®, with a basic question price of $25. Information via Dr. Google is very unreliable. Professional, timely, accurate information is a valuable service…and you can have greater peace of mind after you’re done with your chat or phone call. Sometimes, an owner inadvertently gives their pet a medication or treatment that is not only NOT helpful, but potentially dangerous or life threatening for their pet. Our veterinarians have professional degrees, licenses and working experience. Your telehealth veterinarian strives to provide a valuable service for a reasonable cost, to provide help and information when it’s most needed!
We understand with COVID-19 that this is a tough time economically for many. Unfortunately, there are people that have and love their pets but still cannot afford a veterinary visit. Telehealth veterinarians can provide information to help with that issue as well. They may suggest finding a low-cost veterinary clinic for basic vaccinations and preventative care, or calling local veterinary hospitals to see if they offer Care Credit, a veterinary financing service for pets.
- TAKE NOTES for your primary veterinarian. Unless you can print a written transcript (available with a chat/email-based telehealth visit), feel free to grab a pen and paper and write some notes as you talk with your telehealth vet. If you need clarification on spelling or medical jargon (sometimes veterinarians forget to speak in lay terms to clients), they will be happy to explain it better so that you get the most you can from your virtual visit online. Please remember, online telehealth veterinarians such as VetMoms® are not a substitute for your primary vet as they won’t have a Veterinary Client Patient Relationship (VCPR) with you, but they still can provide valuable, accurate, and trustworthy information and triage to better help your pet when you need it most.
Written by Diane Krasznay, DVM