My dog is fearless and perpetually curious—and that often gets her into trouble. Normally, I’d consult her veterinarian when she sprains a limb at the dog park or eats something suspect, but I can’t visit the clinic for every minor ailment during the coronavirus pandemic. A virtual visit, known as telemedicine, creates a safer consultation for everyone.
Telemedicine, or rather the overarching term “telehealth,” makes it straightforward and easy to connect with a medical expert over the phone, email, text, or video chat; to get a diagnosis; and to fill a prescription. Although telemedicine is rapidly becoming the norm for us humans—and this year is expected to generate $15.9 billion (subscription required), thanks to services like Amwell, Doctor On Demand, and MDLive—similar offerings for our furry friends have been slow to gain traction.
“In veterinary medicine, we’re a little more hands-on,” admitted Dr. Shelly Zacharias, a practicing veterinarian with 14 years of experience. “The uptake of telemedicine in veterinary medicine is going a little slower than it is in human medicine because those patients … can’t tell us what’s wrong with them.”
Thanks to the new normal of physical distancing, industry leaders say veterinary telemedicine is having a moment. Services like Otto claim sign-ups from vet clinics recently increased sevenfold, and whiskerDocs reports a 15 percent uptick in use, both in just a week. Banfield Pet Hospital’s Vet Chat tool has seen a 60 percent increase in use over a recent two-week period.