WAFFLES: Hey Boss! Who's the man in the white coat?
KATIE: White coat? Must be for you, Waffles.
WAFFLES: It says here he's a Vet OnDemand. Does that mean I can watch movies and stuff with him?
KATIE: Pretty sure it's not that kind of OnDemand.
WAFFLES: I suppose that means popcorn is out too, huh?
Video Chat with a Vet
VetOnDemand™ is the first of it's kind mobile app to provide personalized, real-time access to veterinary care via video chat. Pet parents can contact board certified, licensed veterinarians for help in answering general questions or caring for a sick pet. In addition, they can offer advice in determining whether or not an emergency vet visit is needed.
How Does it Work?
1. Download the App
The iPhone-friendly app is free and can be downloaded through iTunes. An app for Android users will be available very soon, as will the ability to use your iPad or computer, equipped with a camera and microphone.
2. Create Your Profile
You'll need to enter your credit card card information as part of your profile before you make your first call. We'd recommend doing this before creating your pets' profiles too.
3. Add Your Pets
You can create a profile for as many pets as you'd like. Enter their name, age, breed, weight, etc... even a profile pic if you'd like. You can also include symptoms and other relevant info regarding the reason for your call.
4. Make the Call
Click the CALL NOW button on your app. You'll be placed in a queue for the next available vet. Your screen will indicate how many people are 'in line' in front of you. Wait times vary. For our call we waited approximately 20 minutes.
5. Chat With Your Vet
Your vet will want you to give them an overview of what's going on with your pet. We recommend making a list of your concerns and questions ahead of time so that you don't forget to ask anything. This will make the most of your time.
6. Call Notes
Though we still took copious notes during our video chat, call notes are automatically made available to you.
What Does it Cost?
A flat $2.50 per minute, billed directly to your credit card.
About the Vets
Each of the veterinarians are board certified and have gone through screening process including phone interviews with the VetOnDemand Veterinary Leadership Team and a thorough review of their clinical experience, training, licensure and a comprehensive questionnaire.
At this time, there isn't a way to preview the backgrounds or bios of each VetOnDemand vet, but that is in the works. For us, it's important to be able to shop around (as long as it's not an emergency) and select a vet who has interests or specialties in areas that are applicable to our needs and what's important to us. For example, if there is a holistic vet available we might be interested in discussing alternative medicine or nutrition. Or maybe there's a vet who really enjoys helping pet parents with chronic diseases like diabetes or IBD. We like to know those things.
About Our Call
We spoke with Dr. Phil Baxter and discussed both Katie's struggles and her progress with inflammatory bowel disorder. It was very nice to get another vet's perspective on some of the things we should be watching for. We had questions about long term steroid use and he provided very thorough answers. He also recommended double checking things like thyroid health in Katie's most recent bloodwork, so we followed up on that with our regular vet.
Though we didn't necessarily agree with some of his suggestions regarding nutrition, he helped us to understand the importance of AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standards in pet food labeling and we have since verified that the specialty whole food diet Katie has been doing so well on does indeed meet AAFCO's standards and the food labels display the AAFCO statement. This has helped us to feel even better about her current nutrition.
Our Own Vet's Perspective
We're very lucky to live in a large metropolitan area with easy access to quality veterinary care. We're also fortunate to be able to afford care, including regular wellness visits. But we know not everyone is as lucky as we are. In fact, nearly 1/2 of household cats have not visited a veterinarian in the past year. (source: 2012 US Pet Ownership & Demographic Sourcebook)
We asked our own local vet what she thought about pet parents seeking veterinary advice through an app like VetOnDemand. Though she feels that no phone call or video chat can replace an in-person physical examination or the benefit of building and maintaining the doctor-client relationship, she did admit there are some situations a video chat with a qualified veterinarian could be a good thing.
For example, those living in rural areas may find it difficult or even impossible to get to a clinic. Talking with a VetOnDemand practitioner could help determine whether the 90 minute drive to the clinic is necessary. They can help to identify an emergency when the pet parent is unsure or cannot.
And although our vet would much rather see a pet in person, she knows all too well the reality of how many, or few, pets actually see a vet at all. The video chat is better than no veterinary advice at all.
VetOnDemand can be great resource for pet parents needing quick advice on non-emergency situations, second opinions and general health questions. It gives pet parents an opportunity to speak one-on-one with a vet when your own vet may not be available or if you don't have a regular vet at all.
On the flip side, we can't say enough about how important is to have a great relationship with your regular vet. Someone you trust, someone who can answer your questions and who really knows you and your pet. Our vet is only a phone call away. If we need advice or have questions, we can talk with her or one of the other vets on staff for free.
There's definitely something to be said about history and about the vet-client-pet relationship. Our vet knows Katie & Waffles almost as well as her her own pets. That's something there just isn't an app for.