A new virtual veterinary service is now available for Ontario pet owners and the lead vet for the program says it could help alleviate some of the pressure of getting an appointment for your sick dog or cat.
TELUS Health MyPet is a phone app that launched about nine months ago in British Columbia and is now available in Ontario, said Dr. Koharik Arman, lead veterinarian for the program.
She said a pandemic pet boom has led to longer-than-usual wait times for cats and dogs to be seen by veterinarians.
“It’s been particularly rewarding in communities exactly like Sault Ste. Marie that are having such a veterinary shortage, relatively speaking, given the pet adoption boom that occurred during the pandemic,” said Arman.
The app is free to download and a video appointment for cats or dogs can be scheduled for an introductory fee of $75.
Arman said the veterinarians working with the service are experienced, working vets who do the virtual consultations as supplemental work.
“We do the consultation, we can provide prescriptions that are needed, and then our registered veterinary technicians follow up in a few days to see how the pet is doing with the medications, is it being administered well? Are there any side effects? Are there any other issues of concern?” she said. “You get the full service you would, like in a brick and mortar veterinary clinic, but virtually.”
Arman said the service has proven useful for a number of ailments that don’t necessarily need a hands-on examination to diagnose.
For example, an ear or eye infection — something Arman said can sometimes take weeks to get an appointment for — can be diagnosed over video and medication prescribed in a single virtual consultation.
“Something relatively minor like an eye infection or an ear infection — you can’t wait that long, you can’t allow your pet to suffer like that,” she said.
Another common issue with some pets is separation anxiety now that many of their owners are back to work.
“We are seeing a lot of behavioural issues with all of the pandemic puppies and kitties who didn’t get well socialized, they got used to having their owners working from home all of the time,” said Arman. “There is a lot of separation anxiety, in particular, but that is one of the topics that lends itself very well to virtual care. The last thing you want to do with a pet who is stressed out already is stress them out even further by bringing them into a clinic.”
“As a pet owner I appreciate how wonderful it is to have the option of treating something virtually and not having to bring my own pets in. I will take that choice every single day of the week because it’s stressful for everybody involved,” she added.
Arman said the idea is to supplement the veterinary care options that are available, not to replace them entirely. The service can also refer clients to a traditional brick and mortar veterinarian if a hands-on consultation in needed.
“Some vet clinics are at capacity and that’s just the way it is. My hope is this eventually frees up more veterinary time in the clinics, in terms of them being able to see those patients that require the hands-on care because if other situations can be dealt with virtually through this service virtually, that frees up a little space in the brick and mortar world,” said Arman.