What is Veterinary Telemedicine?

There are many ways that life will never be the same after the pandemic entered our lives.   For instance, working from a home office is now a long term reality for many of our clients.  And their pets enjoy having that company!  Another unanticipated impact of the pandemic has been the advancement of telemedicine, in both human and veterinary fields.

Shiloh Animal Hospital first started offering telemedicine for our clients and patients in April 2020.  Since then, we are approaching having 300 telemed interactions, using an app called Airvet.  All you need is a phone or computer with a camera, and you are all set!

What are examples of ideal cases for telemedicine?

Some common appointment topics for non-emergent cases include rashes, lameness, follow-up after an ER visit, and dental concerns.  I have also had multiple clients use this option if they are out of town and have a concern, or a petsitter has a question about one of our patients.

If you can take a photo of your concern, you can send it to us in the Airvet app, and have direct communication with a doctor to review it.  These communications can take one of 2 different formats – either messaging back and forth within the app, or a live video call.  The same applies to videos – if you can capture your concern on video, you can upload it to the app and send it to your doctor to review and discuss.  This can be especially helpful for odd neurologic behaviors (twitching, pacing, circling) that don’t occur in the office.

Sometimes our pets are….less cooperative in an office setting.  I have had clients take a video or participate in a video call with me to show me skin lesions that the pet would never be cooperative enough to show me during an appointment.

How do I initiate a request for an appointment?

First, download the Airvet app.  After entering your name, your pet’s name, and your form of payment, you will have one of two options:

  1. Request an Appointment” – this is for non-emergent concerns.  You will have the opportunity to choose your Animal Hospital, and the doctor with whom you’d like to speak.  There is always at least one or two of us available, though we may go on/offline when out of town, etc.  This service is still active during the hours the hospital is open or closed, but it can take up to 24 hours for the doctor to respond back.  If we are seeing appointments in the office, sometimes we can answer your questions in between other cases – and sometimes we will need more time to respond.
  2. On Demand Appointment” – this will initiate a video call.  If a Shiloh vet is available to pick up the call immediately, we will – but if not, you will be patched through to one of 3,000 veterinarians in the Airvet national network.  This option is available 24/7 – and incredibly useful for triage to determine if you need to take your pet to the ER, call Animal Poison Control, etc.

After your appointment, your veterinarian will summarize the case in writing, and this summary will ultimately be emailed to both you and to Shiloh for your pet’s medical record, along with any photos. The case remains open for 2-way chat communication for up to 72 hours to help with follow-up.

Please remember that we can only prescribe for pets that are active patients of Shiloh Animal Hospital within the last 12 months – the veterinary medical board does not consider a telemed appointment a validation of a doctor-patient relationship.

We hope that many of you grow more comfortable with this convenient modality.  A significant number of our telemed clients become “frequent fliers” once they have used it due to the convenience and cost-effectiveness.  Though not a replacement for an in-person physical exam, I am confident that veterinary telemedicine has a permanent place in our array of services to help make veterinary care easier and accessible!