The online vet is always there
The dog’s throwing up, the cat swallowed string and the goldfish is belly up. Quick, get the online vet!
Whether the dog ate chocolate, the cat keeps throwing up, or your pet chinchilla just isn’t himself, pet health emergencies are never convenient. It’s Sunday night and the vet’s office is closed. Or you’re stuck at home without a car. Or your pet is so sick that being lugged around in a carrier will be traumatic.
Whatever the emergency, pet parents are increasingly turning to online vets for advice, answers and guidance. With so many hours in the day that the vet isn’t available, and so many other reasons a pet owner might not want to leave home, the Internet has become a valuable resource.
An online vet can offer a second opinion and suggest ways to make your pet feel better before you get to the vet’s office. And if you’re unsure about bundling up a struggling cat into a carrier, an online vet can help you decide if it’s necessary in the first place. What’s more, an online session is usually much cheaper than a trip to the animal clinic.
All of this can be important to owners because, for as many breeds as there are of dogs, cats, reptiles, birds and other pets, it sometimes seems that there’s an equal number of diseases that afflict them. Not every illness is obvious, and our pets can’t tell us when they’re feeling unwell, so it’s up to us to notice the signs: lethargy, lack of appetite, irregular elimination and the like.
When and how to use an online vet
Some veterinarians worry that pet owners don’t bring their animals to the vet often enough to ensure good health, and that the availability of online vets will mean many pets will see a veterinarian even less.Certainly, virtual vets should never be a complete replacement for a real-life office visit. As one Expert on JustAnswer explains to all his customers, “Our conversation is not intended to diagnose or treat a condition. There has to be a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship established with an exam, according to law. You should always follow up with your vet.”
At the same time, as all experienced pet owners know, it can be tricky to get an appointment fast, or one that works with your schedule. And after a few visits, you start to learn that even if there’s nothing seriously wrong, the vet’s always going to err on the safe side by suggesting tests, exams and medications – all of them pricey.
And let’s face it, even in you’re a bit embarrassed to think it, you sometimes catch yourself wondering if your local vet is simply trying to make a buck. That’s when a second opinion – without the hassle and cost of finding another vet and making the trip to the new office – can be reassuring.
That said, here are some cautionary suggestions from cat-lovers-only.com that you should consider when you’re thinking of clicking your way to a vet.
- Remember that the vet has to rely on your description of the problem, and render an opinion based solely on that. Make careful observations of the problem and explain them in scrupulous detail to the online vet!
- If you’re using a free service, keep in mind that you may have to wait awhile to get an answer to your question, and in the end, you’ll probably get the quality of information that you pay for. “If you need a quicker and/or more complete answer, you can use a paid service, such as JustAnswer.com,” this blogger notes. (Thank you!)
- Most importantly, make sure that the site you’re using has an online vet who’s property trained and qualified to help.
This is the age of online vets
An article in The Age, a Melbourne, Victoria (Australia), newspaper notes, “Virtual visits and online information are not a fad, and sharing is the way of the future, making animal health care quick, convenient and attractively priced. Already the trend is apparent, with user numbers rocketing up worldwide.”
A 2011 veterinary care usage study showed that Internet pet sites have indeed proliferated in recent years and get plenty of traffic. About 39% of pet owners say they will try online before calling their vet, according to the study.
Pet ownership is at an all-time high, which is one explanation for this trend. “The modern veterinary care sector in America is experiencing substantial and sustained growth,” reports Veterinarymedicinecareers.org.
It’s estimated that in 2017 there were about 55.8M pets in the U.S. (While cat lovers correctly note that there are more cats than dogs – barely – freshwater fish blow them all out of the water, so to speak.)
And the American Veterinary Medical Foundation says Americans spend an average of $378 per year in veterinary expenses for dogs, $191 for cats, $33 for birds and $373 for horses.
At JustAnswer, data currently shows an average of some 2,450,000 visitors a month to the online Experts and the questions they’ve answered.
These visitors are mostly asking and checking out questions about dogs and cats – generally four times as many visitors to dog questions as to cat questions. But thousands of people also visit to get information on reptiles, fish, birds, horses, mice, gerbils, hedgehogs, cows, goats, sheep, and all kinds of pets that are either too large to visit the vet, or for whom a local vet just isn’t available.
In fact, online vets can “see” thousands more pets than they can in their brick-and-mortar practices. For instance, Dr. Loretta has been an Expert on JustAnswer since 2009, and has had more than 21,000 customers. Dr. Michael Salkin has been an Expert since 2010, and has more than 28,000 customers on his resumé.
That’s 3,000-4,000 animals per year, whereas vets in brick-and-mortar locations can generally see about 2,000 pets per year.
So, as pet ownership and care evolved in the Internet age, you can rest assured that at JustAnswer, the Experts have all had their credentials verified. They’ll answer the questions of anxious owners at any time of day or night, even on weekends and holidays.
And if “Dr. Google” hasn’t helped you find an answer to your pet problem yet, and you’re interested in getting an answer to your specific question, it can be useful to consult an online vet and gain peace of mind for both you and your pet.