Woman sitting at kitchen table with sleeping dog in arms browsing laptop
How the Modern Pet Telehealth Industry is Improving Veterinary Practices
By Cerys Goodall

taffing shortages, burnout, long hours—and not to mention a pandemic that has lasted a few long years—have all hit the veterinary sector hard. With so many families adding a pet in recent times, our community is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Veterinarians are struggling on multiple fronts to help as many animals as possible without adequate resources.

With limited time in the day, consumers are falling through the cracks while vets are becoming increasingly stressed and overworked. But, telehealth is one light at the end of this tunnel. Telehealth provides unique solutions for both consumers and veterinarians while filling in the gaps of in-person clinics.

The number of pet owners is rising rapidly as people are working from home and making lifestyle changes. While this is great news for all the pets out there, the veterinarians are scrambling to keep up with consumer demand. On top of that, pet owners are more discerning than ever before. The marketplace is competitive and it can be difficult for vet practices to keep up. Pet parents want more convenience without sacrificing the quality of care. A shortage of vets and lack of availability for appointments has led more pet owners to go online in search of both emergency and non-emergency solutions for their pets.

Telehealth fills the gap in the market for consumers who want reliable, trustworthy advice on their schedule from the convenience of their homes. Pet owners prefer increased flexibility and control over their ability to book virtual vet appointments. With telehealth appointments, clients are no longer limited to the typical nine-to-five business hours. These unique virtual platforms allow pet owners to book online virtual care appointments outside of traditional business hours, even for non-emergency issues.

Telehealth fills the gap in the market for consumers who want reliable, trustworthy advice on their schedule from the convenience of their homes. Pet owners prefer increased flexibility and control over their ability to book virtual vet appointments.
Virtual telehealth gives pet owners:

  • Added convenience
  • Less stress
  • More scheduling flexibility
  • Increased accessibility for those struggling with mobility, health and geographical limitations.

The best virtual health platforms maintain many of the benefits associated with an in-person vet practice, such as the choice of practitioner and quality of care. Pet owners can access virtual telehealth from anywhere, allowing those who would otherwise have difficulty getting to an in-person appointment to receive quality care for their pets. Booking an online virtual care appointment with an online veterinarian can help them navigate health decisions for their pets from the comfort of their own home and also when they are traveling.

There are many emerging options available on the market today with wide-ranging services and pricing options. The following are some of the features that are available:

1. Practice Software
Practice software has expanded to offer telemedical features that provide existing clients with virtual chat or video appointments. These systems require the clinic to pay a monthly or annual subscription fee irrespective of utilization, and may also incur additional payment processing fees. To be effective, this approach requires additional staffing to support clients requesting appointments in or out of clinic hours.

2. Call Center Subscriptions
Another trend in telehealth is the emergence of the subscription model with veterinary professionals working in a call-center-like model to provide teletriage support. Call center subscription models are restricted in scope and function. These companies often only support cats and dogs, and focus on bundling prescriptions like flea and tick prevention as part of the service. The value of the expert consult is diminished by the emphasis placed on financial savings. Clients who require veterinary advice are most often referred to a physical clinic after the appointment, even when it may not be necessary to attend an in-person appointment.

3. Marketplace
Most advantageous for the industry is the virtual care marketplace where veterinary professionals can list their services, select all species they choose to treat, and set their own schedule and pricing. This fast-growing marketplace gives both veterinarians and clients transparency and choice throughout the entire experience. Veterinarians are able to work with their existing clients for follow-up appointments, after-hours care and preventative healthcare appointments. Vets can also support teletriage as well as gain new clients in their region of practice.

When booking a telehealth appointment, pet parents most often search for veterinarians by location, types of animals treated, language, fees and areas of specialization. Often, pet owners are looking for appointments that have a short wait time for urgent or pressing questions that may not necessarily warrant a trip to the emergency room outside of normal office hours. The ability to offer this type of service virtually is a major advantage for clients who are looking for functionality and convenience.

A virtual vet appointment is conducted similarly to an in-person appointment. Here’s what a client can expect during a virtual visit with a veterinarian on an online care platform:

The client and vet will connect via video chat. Typically, booking notices can be as short as 15 minutes, so urgent concerns are easily scheduled. Vets control the amount of notice they require for appointments. Confirmation notifications are sent to both parties so they can log on at the scheduled time for a video chat by phone, tablet or laptop, making the entire process simple and straightforward.

Scheduled telehealth appointments save the customer time spent in a waiting room with an often nervous pet. For cases in which a veterinarian may need to get a closer look at the pet, clients can upload photos before or during the video chat. The appointment time is efficiently used for Q&A and a video assessment of the pet and situation.

The vet will review the animal’s medical history and current condition. The client can schedule follow-up appointments as needed or as recommended by the vet. Once the results of diagnostic tests are processed, a vet can review the results remotely without requiring the client or their pet to leave the comfort of their home, unless an in-person assessment is needed.

A small chihuahua in front of a laptop
Telehealth offers flexibility and convenience so that clients and vets are not restricted by location, conflicting time zones or changes in areas of jurisdiction.
Telehealth platforms address as what some are referring to as the global veterinary crisis1 by providing unique resources to veterinary professionals to expand their practices online. By adding virtual care to their toolkit, veterinarians can offer their clients the option of flexibility and convenience when booking appointments, while also improving their own work-life balance. Innovative digital solutions enable veterinarians to treat common non-urgent, non-surgical ailments remotely. The best telehealth platforms are designed to be easy for vets to use, with a minimal learning curve.

In addition to the variety of services available, there are multiple benefits to combining in-person clinics with the advantages of telehealth:

1. Providing assistance with triage and overflow.
Telehealth provides the triage support that veterinary professionals are looking for and desperately need. Busy clinics can redirect their overflow to virtual vet appointments as a trusted, viable way to receive help when demand is high or the clinic is closed. Licensed veterinarians can provide teletriage promptly to ease pet parent concerns in non-emergency situations while directing identified emergencies to appropriate care, rather than letting the responsibility of triage fall to the shoulders of a receptionist or other supporting staff member at a clinic.

2. Offering a more efficient use of time for physical clinics.
By offering virtual care, veterinarians can more efficiently address general questions, organize triage and solve cases that primarily require a one-time assessment. This saves time for the physical clinics to focus on the cases that require hands-on interaction. Clients also show a preference for veterinary clinics that offer virtual care as an option.

3. Using trends in technology to create a smoother flow of work.
Modern trends in technology are enhancing the abilities of telehealth practices to complement in-clinic practices and provide consistent support to patients. Common issues addressed during online virtual care appointments include skin issues, behavior concerns, quality of life assessments, and questions about routine preventive health care and nutrition. Telehealth makes it possible for appointments about these issues to be scheduled within a wider window of time, during hours approved by individual veterinarians. This allows vets to take on the kind of work they choose at times convenient to them.

Telehealth offers flexibility and convenience so that clients and vets are not restricted by location, conflicting time zones or changes in areas of jurisdiction. With the increase in use of technology for both human and pet healthcare, more jurisdictions are allowing the establishment of a VCPR, or valid client-patient relationship, via video conferencing. This opens the door for prescriptions and diagnostics to be safely attained via virtual vet appointments.

4. Improving collaboration and EMR.
Rapidly growing telehealth services are addressing the needs of veterinary practices in the U.S., the UK and Canada. Telehealth provides an opportunity for veterinarians to boost revenue, practice with more flexibility, lower stress and maintain a high standard of health care for pets, no matter where they are located. In-clinic vets and staff members can refer to electronic records to enhance their administrative profile of each patient and keep current with all of their patients who are supported online.

A woman in front of a laptop
Virtual care appointments can be completed from home, on the road or in the clinic between physical appointments. Vets can continue to work while partially retired or through a career change.
Additionally, there are several benefits for individual vets who use telehealth in their practice. Some of these benefits include the following:

1. Increase in flexibility and work-life balance.
Vets choose the hours they are available to work without worrying about finding coverage or depriving a patient of care. With telehealth, the vet chooses what hours they wish to be available to online clients, as well as their rate of compensation. Virtual care appointments can be completed from home, on the road or in the clinic between physical appointments. Vets can continue to work while partially retired or through a career change. Incorporating telehealth into your practice provides a new avenue for vets to support pet parents and their pets while structuring their day in a more flexible and personalized manner.

2. Provides telehealth-specific liability coverage.
In addition to being accessible on the internet from anywhere, some telehealth platforms may have their own liability policies providing necessary coverage for telehealth consultations via phone, video and other digital methods of communication. If your current liability policy covers telemedicine, these policies will typically apply as a secondary policy to further fill in any gaps in coverage. This means that vets can work effectively while traveling without concerns about gaps in coverage. Veterinary professionals with multi-state licensing can now take their practice on the go. Be sure to check on your existing coverage and insurance options.

3. Improved mental health and career satisfaction.
Telehealth enhances vets’ mental health and satisfaction within their careers. Virtual appointments help vets provide ongoing care, allow them to follow up with their in-clinic patients and quickly answer questions that improve their client relationships. Pandemic-related demand for veterinary care combined with a critical shortage of veterinarians in the industry are immense challenges faced by every vet and clinic. Virtual care offers a way for veterinarians to support pet parents across their state or province, improving access to even the most remote and rural regions. Telehealth provides vets the option to improve their mental health by relieving some of the stress they face in the current climate.

1. Salois, M., Golab, G. (2021, Aug, 25). Are we in a veterinary workforce crisis? AVMA.
Cerys Goodall headshot
Cerys Goodall, Chief Operating Officer of, is a change agent with 20 years of experience helping leading tech startups to move from ideation to growth through the power of communications, brand development, and operations. Her passion and energy for defining and leading new markets combined with the incredible team and technology at Vetster will transform how pet parents and veterinarians take care of their pets.