As pet owners, we normally consult with a veterinarian in cases when our pet shows signs of distress, sickness, or suddenly behaves differently. This often involves scheduling an appointment and bringing our pet to the vet clinic to be examined and be given options for treatment if necessary.

There may be times, however, when we want to consult with a vet wherever we may be at a certain moment, whether we want to ask general queries such as choosing the best diet for our pet or to contact them immediately in situations that seem like an emergency.

Moreover, what if these things happen after the operating hours of most vet clinics? Maybe it's late at night and your dog starts vomiting. Or maybe your cat was neutered earlier that day when you suddenly see redness and inflammation around the surgical site. During times like these when the vet clinic is closed already, what do you do?

Online Vet Health: Basics

Luckily, online vet services have become available as a viable option for different situations. Similar to how online consultations with practitioners have become available to humans, online veterinarian services are now on the rise to address queries, evaluate whether the case is an emergency or not, and offer professional advice for our pet's overall health and wellness.

With an online vet service, there’s the convenience and accessibility to a veterinarian whether you’re at home or far away. You get fast responses from certified vets and depending on your dog’s case, you may not have to leave your home for a physical examination, tests, or treatment. Not to mention, it’s a more affordable option and is often less stressful for your pet than an actual visit to the vet clinic.

Do note that when it comes to what an online vet can legally provide, there are differences compared to physical consultations. Nonetheless, here is some essential information regarding online vet services and how they can be advantageous to pets and pet owners.

Read more: How Much Does The Vet Cost?

When Can You Use Online Vet Services?

There are a number of online vet services today that allow you to talk to certified veterinarians via chat, phone call, and video. Some services such as Online Vet by Petcube are available 24/7 so you can talk to a certified vet anytime, anywhere.

So when can you use online vet services and how is it beneficial to both pets and pet owners?

1. Queries About Your Pet’s General Health

Being able to talk to an online veterinarian anytime is an accessible way to seek advice regarding your pet’s general health. Through an online vet service, you can easily chat with a certified veterinarian regarding your pet’s behavior, diet & nutrition, flea/tick/parasite prevention, what products you may use for your pet, vet recommendations, and many others.

This allows pet owners to learn more about how to care for their pets as well as how to become more responsible pet owners.

2. Triage

Another area where online vet services can really help is when it comes to triage or determining whether your pet’s case is an emergency or not. Online veterinarians can interpret whether your pet needs to be brought to the emergency vet already or if they can wait till it’s more convenient.

Let’s say that your pet is vomiting but most vet clinics are already closed during that time. Vomiting can indicate something as simple as an upset stomach to severe cases such as kidney failure, toxicity, or parvovirus.

With this, you can use the online vet service to talk with a certified veterinarian who will assess the situation based on the information you’ve provided such as your observations, your pet’s medical history, and so on. The vet can then evaluate the urgency of the situation.

3. Follow-ups

As pet owners, part of caring for our pet is following up with the veterinarian after the pet’s treatment or surgery. Consulting with an online veterinarian to follow up on your pet’s illness or recovery period after treatment or surgery can help ease your worries as they can give advice in a matter of a couple of minutes.

Talking to a vet online gives you the option to easily send photos of the surgical site to the online veterinarian, who then assesses whether it looks normal or if your pet might need to be brought to the vet due to an infection, inflammation, or abrasion in the area. This, however, shouldn’t replace the scheduled in-person follow-up with the veterinarian who specifically treated your pet.

4. Getting a Second Opinion

For pet parents who want to have peace of mind regarding the health of their pet, getting a second opinion from an online veterinarian may help. Do note, however, that this has limits since there is no physical examination and access to tests that may be needed to give a full opinion regarding your pet’s case.

Meanwhile, what an online veterinarian can do is offer suggestions regarding which tests and treatment options you can do. They can also share information about the initial diagnosis of your pet.

Limitations of Online Vet Care

Online vet services can greatly help pet parents have peace of mind when it comes to looking out for their pet’s wellbeing. However, there are cases when in-person veterinary services are needed during emergency situations. Among the conditions that would need in-person veterinary care are:

1. More Than a Day of Not Eating, Vomiting, or Diarrhea

When it has been 24 hours and your pet still isn’t eating/is vomiting/has diarrhea, it would be dangerous to risk with dehydration, so an in-person visit to the vet is necessary. At the same time, there are many possible causes for such behaviors, and they should be diagnosed, examined, and addressed by a vet in-person to determine the cause and the available options for treatment.

2. Traumatic Injuries

A pet who has experienced a traumatic injury (ex. the pet got hit by a car) needs to be brought to the vet immediately. Even if your pet may seem fine on the outside, there may be internal damages that affect the organs which can quickly progress or even be fatal if not given the immediate veterinary care and treatment at the clinic.

3. Open Wounds and Loss of Blood

Having an open wound would usually require treatment via antibiotics as well as pain medications and in some cases, surgery may be needed. Bleeding as well as infections are risky for the animals so they should be treated immediately to avoid complications.

4. Neurological Conditions

Conditions such as seizures, paralysis, and abrupt changes in the mental awareness of your pet should be treated as emergency situations. An in-person visit to the vet is essential for neurological assessment and treatment. Tests such as x-ray and CT scans may be needed. In some cases, surgery is recommended.

5. Breathing Difficulties

Dyspnea, a condition when your pet experiences difficulty in breathing, should be immediately addressed. Among the signs of dyspnea are: shallow and rapid respiratory rate, a neck that’s outstretched, abdominal muscles exerting extra effort, lethargy, and collapsing.

Breathing difficulties such as dyspnea can quickly progress so it is necessary to bring them to the vet immediately so that they can be given the proper veterinary care such as oxygen administration and medications to treat their condition.

Can An Online Vet Prescribe Medication?

If you’re considering online vet services, you may wonder: Is an online vet prescription possible? Wouldn’t it be so convenient if there’s a service that allows both online vet consultation and prescription as well?

Unfortunately, online veterinarians do not have the legal capacity to prescribe medications. This is because VCPR (veterinary-client-patient relationship) is required before veterinarians can prescribe medications.

VCPR is a relationship that is established between a veterinarian, the client (pet parent), and the patient (the pet), and most states have a requirement that an in-person examination is needed to have a VCPR.

Having a VCPR makes sure that the veterinarian has enough background about your pet and has assessed them thoroughly to be able to diagnose and prescribe treatment.

Online Vet Chat vs. Online Vet Call

With the rise in technology, more online vet services have begun offering online vet help via chat and calls (including video calls). But what is the difference between online vet chat and online vet call, and how can it be advantageous when it comes to veterinary care?

Online vet chat is a good option for pet parents who do not have access to the tools needed for video conferencing. Chat services have a lot of features such as photo-sharing, allowing you to share photos of your pet. At the same time, your vet can send you helpful links to share information.

Meanwhile, online vet calls (especially video calls) offer a more personal connection. For example, when the veterinarian gets to see (via video) the color of your dog’s eyes and gums, their respiratory rate, their skin and coat, injuries if any, they would get a better picture of how your pet is doing.

At the same time, video calls allow real-time consultation and feedback while getting cues, whether verbal or nonverbal. Ultimately, using both chat and calls is better in order to fully utilize online vet services.

Using an online vet service is a wonderful option to take care of your pet’s health. While it is more recommended for general queries about pet health rather than emergencies, having an online veterinarian that you can communicate with any time and anywhere has great benefits for both pets and pet parents' wellbeing in the long run.

Online Vet and Emergency Fund by Petcube

Petcube's Online Vet solution offers 24/7 access to a team of trained veterinarians who can answer your questions and advise on the best course of action. With Online Vet, you can send photos and videos and get advice from a trained vet on whether the issue is something you can handle yourself or whether it is time to see the vet.

Emergency Fund by Petcube has revamped the traditional pet insurance to meet the most common emergency needs at an affordable price. You can ask any questions regarding your pet's wellbeing, including general health, nutrition advice, second opinions, allergies, behavioral questions, or anything else your pet might be encountering, and get $3,000 in an emergency for up to six pets.

Petcube Emergency Fund