telemedicine for pets: remote blood collection enables tele-vet care
by Neoteryx | 3 min read
Veterinarians must respond to changing trends in pet ownership and pet care to help more pets get the care they deserve...
A few years ago, pets were most likely to be owned by older adults and families with young children. This has changed in recent years. According to the American Pet Products Association, the millennial generation (people aged 25-39 years) is now the largest pet-owning demographic, making up 35% of US pet owners, compared to 32% of baby boomers. This younger group of pet owners has different expectations and attitudes to veterinary care.
Next-Generation Pet Owners Demand New Approaches to Pet Care
Unlike older generations that were accustomed to traditional in-clinic vet visits, the younger generations prefer tele-vet programs that offer virtual vet assistance. Many millennials find the virtual care approach more convenient and less stressful, for them and their animals.
Veterinarians need to adapt their services to this new demographic of pet owners by offering virtual healthcare approaches like telemedicine and telehealth. Many veterinary clinics now provide virtual vet assistance in the form of tele-vet services, including remote specimen collection and remote patient monitoring.
How Virtual Vet Assistance Works
Virtual vet assistance is not a new concept. In the past few years, vets have started using tools like Skype, FaceTime, and Whatsapp to communicate with pet owners about their pets’ health. In 2020, with the advent of the novel coronavirus pandemic, telehealth has become a preferred pathway for providing pet care.
Virtual vet assistance is similar to human telemedicine: The pet owner client requests a visit and provides information about their animal’s condition over the phone or via digital communication. The most popular type of tele-vet service is a phone call, but vets are also using email and video-chat platforms to provide in-depth care. The vet schedules an appointment where both parties meet via Zoom to discuss the animal's health and even view them on-camera to assess their condition. During the discussion, the vet provides a preliminary diagnosis, recommendations for treatment, and a prescription.
While virtual vet assistance provides much-needed convenience, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the AVMA highlights the need to use telemedicine channels within the context of an existing vet-client relationship (VCPR).
This means tele-vet tools shouldn’t be used to replace initial consultations or confirm a diagnosis. However, with the FDA temporarily suspending some VCPR requirements during the coronavirus pandemic, vets can use this time to make initial consults via telehealth channels.
Recent changes in veterinary restrictions mean that vets can use telehealth to:
Obtain a Medical History: A pet’s medical history can be obtained quickly via telehealth channels, just as it would be during in-person visits. The pet owner explains the symptoms exhibited, when they started, and whether the symptoms have worsened or improved since onset. The vet may ask for additional facts about the pet’s health history to narrow the list of possible diagnoses.
Perform a Physical Examination: A vet gathers information about pets using two methods: physical examination and medical history. Since a physical examination is limited in a telemedicine appointment, the vet may ask for videos or images of specific areas of concern.
For example, if the dog is limping, the vet may ask for a video of the dog running and walking. If the pet has a mass on the forehead or other area of the body, the vet may ask to see it in a photo or live video. Sometimes the vet can’t make a conclusive diagnosis using video or images, and may need a specimen sample collected for analysis.
The vet can send the pet owner a remote blood collection Mitra® device in a kit like the Mitra® Blood Collection Kit. Once the pet owner uses the kit and supplies to collect the specimen sample, they can mail it to the vet clinic for analysis. Once the lab results are available, the vet uses telehealth communication channels like email, video chat, or phone call to discuss the results, confirm the diagnosis, and provide care recommendations.
Make Genetic or Breed Determinations
Pet owners adopting cats or dogs from animal rescue centers may want to determine their pet’s origins and any genetic diseases they’re likely to experience.
Since breed determination by mail as a tele-vet service is already popular with pet owners, remote sample collection isn't really a new concept. These genetic sample collection kits are mailed to homes for sample collection and mailed back for analysis.
Tele-vet programs that leverage remote patient monitoring for pets also provide the following vet services:
- Basic triage
- Behavioral training
- Dermatologic concerns
- Environmental concerns
- Hospice care
- Long-term care monitoring
- Post-operative follow-up
Benefits of Telemedicine for Pet Parents and Vets
Improved Client Relationships: Tele-vet options provide an extra channel with which pet owners can interact with their pet's veterinarian. These options are especially relevant among younger people because they are modern and tailored to their preferences. Millennials particularly appreciate the convenience of virtual services and are the main driving force behind tele-vet applications.
Sustained Vet Practice: The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on many businesses, including vet care clinics and emergency animal hospitals. With telemedicine, vet clinics and other animal care providers can remain operational and pet owners can more easily get the care their animals require.