E-Vet Visits: Are Online Veterinarians the Future?

October 27, 2015

Want to skip schlepping your pet to the vet?  You might have another option. PawSquad, a company from across the pond, has introduced online veterinarian consultations via a laptop or smartphone.  For 15 pounds (that’s about $23), you get a 15-minute consultation (an additional 15 minutes are available for another 15 pounds). PawSquad focuses on things “small and furry” (cats, dogs, rabbits, gerbils and hamsters) — and with a current staff of 15 veterinarians and “office” hours from 6 am to midnight, this seems pretty attractive at first glance. Heck, you can’t get a veterinarian consult in San Francisco for $23!

But as with so many things, there’s more. PawSquad lists the types of issues for which a pet parent should go directly to a veterinarian and skip the video consult:

  1. Injury or impact
  2. Struggling to breathe
  3. Neurological conditions
  4. Seizures
  5. Distended abdomen or abdominal pain
  6. Urinary problems.

Frankly, this is a pretty long list and subject to wide interpretation.  We couldn’t agree more that many of these items do require a trip to the veterinarian, but “injury or impact” is so all-encompassing that it’s hard to imagine what would not require a trip to a veterinarian.

In addition, while it’s understandable that PawSquad could not undertake a wide array of veterinary practices via video conference (the idea of remote sutures comes to mind), it turns out that PawSquad cannot even prescribe medication via a video consultation — but they can offer advise on medications that your pet might already be taking. So, given all of these limitations, when is PawSquad the right answer for a pet parent? According to their website, “PawSquad can be used in any scenario where you are unsure about the right course of action for the health and wellbeing of your pet.”

Even as a pretty seasoned pet parent, there are times I’m unsure what to do. Given all the occasions that PawSquad tells me they think I should go directly to a veterinarian AND that they can’t prescribe any medicines (often I need to go to a veterinarian only to get medicine for a condition I do completely understand), I’m not sure of the value added by PawSquad.

But what do you think about online veterinarians?  Are you ready for e-vet visits?  Is PawSquad just a bit ahead of its time? Once you can actually get more accomplished via e-visits, will it save us all time and money?  Are you waiting for the app for vet care, or are you the type who wants to have your veterinarian actually touch your pet?

Thanks for reading!

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