Telehealth is a rising trend, and for good reasons. Licensed vets with telehealth services offer online vet consultations to assess and diagnose your pet’s condition remotely via text/phone/video call. Medications, if necessary, are prescribed and delivered to your doorstep.
This makes it perfect for non-urgent cases, pet parents who simply require a top-up of their pet’s chronic medications, and times like our recent COVID-19 situation, when we have to stay at home except for emergencies.
A new wave of convenience & reassurance with telehealth
While teleconsultations and telemedicine as a whole are not meant to replace all veterinary services, these online tools are a valuable support for making traditional veterinary practices more holistic and accessible.
Traditionally, a consultation with your pet’s vet requires you to take your pet to the clinic. Such visits will involve you having to take time off your busy schedule, and you may experience hassles while getting your pet to the clinic. Not to mention, visits to the clinic can also be very stressful for some pets, particularly cats.
With teleconsultation, however, pet owners can save on travel time and cost, and it is a more pleasant experience for pets who get easily stressed out in foreign places. It is also particularly beneficial for pet owners who may have mobility issues.
Pet owners also often face instances where they’re unsure if a trip to the vet is necessary. There may even be situations when the visit prove unnecessary as all that was needed to address their pet’s condition was professional advice. In such cases, a teleconsultation will be a practical yet equally reassuring alternative to the traditional face-to-face veterinary visits.
Non-emergency situations most suited for teleconsultation
A teleconsultation is a virtual real-time consultation, carried out remotely through the use of technology. So long as you have access to the internet and a computer with a camera or a smartphone, a virtual consultation is a viable option for you and your pet if:
- Your pet has a non-urgent concern and you require professional advice i.e. new skin growths, mild skin and ear conditions, mild lameness, and mild gastroenteritis episodes
- You require screening to decide whether your pet’s problem can be resolved without a visit to the clinic or if it is a potentially life-threatening emergency
- You are reviewing and monitoring a chronic illness
- You are unable to take your pet to the clinic
- Movement restrictions necessitate staying at home such as in the present COVID-19 pandemic.
When a visit to the clinic is required
Since teleconsultations and telemedicine are not meant to replace all veterinary services, there will be instances when your vet will recommend that you take your pet to the clinic for a thorough physical examination and diagnostic tests.
Typically, pets exhibiting these potentially life-threatening signs will require immediate medical attention at the clinic and not a teleconsultation:
- Bleeding, deep, or extensive open wounds
- Traumatic injuries
- Severe pain
- Collapsing, fainting, or dizziness
- Loss of vision
- Poisoning and ingestion of human medications or objects
- Persistent vomiting or diarrhoea
- Bloated abdomen
- Persistent coughing or respiratory distress
- High or low body temperature
- Trouble urinating or not producing urine
- Complete loss of appetite for more than 24 hours (rabbits and guinea pigs that are not eating may be experiencing gut stasis, a life-threatening condition)
- Pale mucus membranes accompanied by cold extremities
- Abnormal heart rate
- Birthing difficulties
- Unusual recovery after a recent surgery.
Telehealth services on our shores
Much to the joy of pet parents here, as of June 2020, there are a handful of telehealth veterinary services available in Singapore. This includes The Animal Clinic (TAC) and The Cat Clinic (TCC), which are both AVS-registered veterinary centres — TAC has been caring for pets since 1979, while TCC was established in 2015 as a cats-only practice and is a certified Cat Friendly Clinic by the International Society of Feline Medicine.
TAC and TCC’s telehealth service
TAC & TCC’s teleconsultations
Using software developed by a veterinary telehealth provider, TAC and TCC offer both texting and video teleconsultations. Pet owners simply need to head online to https://animalclinicsg.smart.vet/ and register an account (which will take no longer than a minute to do so) to select the service required.
- Message Consultation ($10)
- Pet owners can write in their questions and concerns and attach any supporting videos, pictures, or documents for the vets to review and get back to you within 24 hours.
- Phone/Video Consultation ($31)
- Pet owners can schedule for a 15-minute phone or video call and write in their questions and concerns with supporting documents attached for the vet to review before the call.
- You may also opt to schedule an appointment with Dr Lennie Lee specifically, who is their senior veterinarian with over 30 years of experience in treating dogs, cats, fish, small mammals, and tortoises.
To get the most out of your teleconsultation, it is recommended that you prepare the following beforehand:
- Ensure you provide the clinic with the mobile number and email address that you’ll be using for the teleconsultation
- Select a quiet, private space for the consultation to ensure good sound quality free from distractions
- Have close-up photos and videos ready
- Videos are useful for showing lameness, gait abnormalities, and unusual behaviours, observing respiratory problems, and distinguishing between vomiting, retching, and regurgitation
- Close-up photos are useful for skin and ear problems, visualisation of the eye surface, and for stools that are abnormal in colour or consistency.
Rather than depend on your memory, it is also best to have a list of all the information that you wish to provide the vet with. As a general rule of thumb, a comprehensive list that will allow your vet to finetune his diagnosis would include:
- Changes in appearance (skin and coat), facial expression, and behaviour
- Appetite changes (partial or absolute loss of appetite, or increased appetite)
- Weight loss or gain
- Increased or decreased thirst
- Urination abnormalities
- Abnormal consistency or colour of the stools
- Vomiting and the contents of the vomitus
- Mobility issues
- Breathing abnormalities
- Abnormal heart rate
- The full medical history and a list of current medications and supplements (for your first consultation with any vet).
In the event that your pet’s symptoms have changed significantly or deteriorated since booking an appointment with TAC or TCC, do give them a call immediately for medical advice.
The dashboard where TAC and TCC members can schedule teleconsultations and view past consultation summaries
Once the consultation is completed, a written summary will be provided by your veterinarian, which will be available for viewing at any time in your account. Payment is also contactless and done online via their platform. Of course, if a trip down to their clinic is needed, they will inform you and schedule an appointment for you.
TAC & TCC’s telemedicine
For refills of chronic medications and prescription pet food, pet owners can simply send in a request via WhatsApp (+65 8314 5197). A courier service will be engaged at a flat rate of $6.42 to deliver them to your doorstep within 3 working days.
Telehealth is here to stay and it’s changing the way we provide healthcare for our pets for the better. Whether you require puppy and kitten care tips, advice on behavioural and dietary issues, assistance in determining the urgency of your pet’s situation, or a refill of your pet’s usual medication and prescription pet food, you can now get it quickly, conveniently, and safely at home with the help of TAC, TCC, and an increasing number of other veterinary centres.