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World Veterinary Day 2023: Pet telehealth can improve access to quality care

Telehealth is revolutionising pet healthcare sector by making quality care accessible to all

Sneha regularly uses virtual consultations for her little one, Lucy. Picture: Sneha
Sneha regularly uses virtual consultations for her little one, Lucy. Picture: Sneha

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With more people moving from considering pets as a status symbol or something they own towards welcoming them as family members, there has been a renewed focus on pet healthcare. However, accessing quality healthcare, especially during emergencies, has been a concern for pet parents. In a recent survey by Supertails, an online platform for pet care needs, most of surveyed Gen-Z said there is a lack of credible information available online that can help pet parents, especially the first timers. Pet parents also expressed the need for making online vet consultations more accessible, especially in tier 2 and 3 cities. 

The need for pet telemedicine was strongly felt especially during the lockdowns imposed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. As many became first-time pet parents during the lockdown, there was a constant need for information and consultations that were made difficult because of isolation. In 2021, Practo, an India-based integrated healthcare company, launched online veterinary telemedicine providing, 24x7 online consultation services for pet consultations, according to a press release. 

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In the same year, Plum, an insurance-tech company, rolled out pet telemedicine consultations along with pet insurance policies to make it easier for pet parents to access immediate quality healthcare for their furry ones. “Pandemic especially led to a much rethinking about how to improve healthcare access for pets. Telehealth was seen as a much needed relief for many people who couldn’t visit clinics. Even for doctors, it’s easier to see more pets and do follow-ups. For instance, first-timers have questions which can be easily addressed through telemedicine,” Dr. Anubhav Mishra who has 10 years of experience and is one of the doctors associated with Plum’s telehealth services. 

For pet parents, telemedicine offers a range of advantages. For instance, who doesn’t feel a bit anxious about going to a doctor? Even pets do. Opting for a virtual consult reduces the nervousness and might cause the pets less stress, especially if the problems don’t require in-person checkups. Moreover, for people struggling with work-life balance, the immediacy and ease of virtual consultations can be a huge relief. 

Importantly, for those in remote areas or regions with less access to vets, awareness of virtual consultations can save lives. In emergencies, for instance, a pet eating something that could be poisonous for them requires immediate medical attention. In such cases, being able to talk to a doctor and provide emergency care can be a matter of life or death. “I remember receiving a call late in the night a few months ago. A pet dog had eaten something that had an adverse reaction and was not doing well. They booked a teleconsultation and I advised what to do and how to go about it and we were able to save the dog in time,” Dr Mishra recalled. 

Most of the teleconsultations are for skin problems, followed by pets swallowing something that could be poisonous for them, Dr Mishra says. Many of these cases are also from remote areas where virtual consultations can be the only option. However, there is a lack of awareness about telehealth beyond urban areas. “It’s important for people in rural areas to know about the benefits of telehealth so that we can reach and help more animals,” says Dr Mishra. 

Currently, with the shift in people’s attitudes towards pets, more pet parents are prioritizing quality care. From focusing on ensuring their pets get the right nutrients to get second opinions from veterinary doctors, they often go above and beyond. As pet healthcare sector witnessing a constant upswing, telehealth seems to be future.  "It is making pet healthcare more accessible and convenient. Telemedicine will definitely revolutionise pet healthcare sector,” says Dr Mishra. 

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