Basically, online veterinarians are professionals who offer dematerialized consultations to their canine patients, either by phone call or video conference.
However, there is now a wide variety of services that have developed around this concept, from online medical dog food sales to veterinary advice via instant text chat, veterinary article blogs and paperless appointment scheduling.
It is important to note that not all of these online veterinary services are created equal, and it is important to distinguish between online consultations and online advice in order to make the right choices, as the latter can have a significant impact on your dog's health.
What is an online veterinarian?
Strictly speaking, an online veterinarian is a qualified veterinarian, who offers dematerialized consultations, by phone or video conference. This type of service allows owners who have urgent questions about the health of their dogs to receive professional advice quickly, but also those who have less urgent questions not to travel for nothing.
Also, it is a service that appeals especially to worried owners - even a little hypochondriac by proxy - and those who live far from a veterinary facility, and have to make a substantial journey to get answers to their questions. Online veterinary services bring, in fact, a response adapted to the digital age, which can be of substantial help to owners living far from a veterinarian on call, or from a veterinarian at all, and do not necessarily have the possibility to bring their dog to a consultation at the first concern.
It should be noted, however, that online veterinarians cannot provide diagnoses through a dematerialized medium, and must be satisfied with providing advice.
The different types of online veterinary services
As a result of the dematerialized society, many veterinary services have been developed on the Internet, in order to offer to the owners services in the air of time, touching different fields.
The sale of veterinary products online
Some websites are specialized in selling veterinary products online. Most of the time, these are therapeutic dog foods, i.e. medicalized kibbles and pâté for dogs suffering from well-defined disorders.
These products include kibbles from the well-known brands Royal Canin, Hill's, Virbac, and many others from their competitors, which formulate food to be prescribed as a complement to medical treatments or to control a disease that is not yet too advanced, such as diabetes or renal failure.
This type of service has its advantages, but also its disadvantages, and it should be noted that feeding a therapeutic food to your dog without a prior veterinary diagnosis can be dangerous. Foods that are intended to supplement the treatment of certain disorders can be harmful to dogs suffering from other diseases.
On the other hand, it should be noted that, as these foods are marketed by veterinarians at a price that is generally very expensive, it can be interesting for owners to find them online once the diagnosis has been made and the prescription issued.
Also, if a veterinarian has advised you to feed your dog with Royal Canin Renal kibbles, for example, you can safely buy these products online, provided that you go to a reliable website to avoid counterfeits, which are more numerous than one might think in this sector.
In all other cases, if you suspect a specific pathology in your dog or if you have the impression that he needs a particular diet after having observed certain behaviors or physical disorders, do not rush to buy medicalized food online.
Visit your veterinarian first, who will make a definitive diagnosis and tell you what diet is best for your pet's health. It is highly inadvisable to try to self-medicate your dog.
Online veterinary advice
Many websites and blogs offer a variety of content, described as online veterinary advice from professionals. In the case of veterinarian blogs or veterinary institution websites, these are generally excellent sources of information, offering owners a wealth of useful advice.
However, it is important to remember that blogs and online articles, even those written by veterinarians, can only present general cases, without taking into account your dog's health in particular. Therefore, they may describe situations that are similar to your dog's, but are actually quite different.
I recommend that you beware of the famous "Doctissimo" syndrome, a phenomenon where people go online to learn about harmless symptoms and, after some research, end up diagnosing themselves with a serious illness. Dogs are no exception to this phenomenon, and it must be said that the name of the most famous site for online veterinary advice gives us a hint, since it is Vetissimo.
As you will have understood, the main danger of online veterinary advice is to provide you with misinterpreted information, which can make you imagine that your dog is in a certain situation, when it is not the case, pushing you to take inappropriate decisions.
While this is not especially disturbing when it comes to advice that has no impact on your pet's health, it can be a problem when your dog is actually sick or in psychological distress and the advice you receive causes you to minimize the problem.
Veterinary advice by phone
Some websites now propose to contact a unique phone number that puts you in touch with a platform of professional veterinarians, ready to advise you in case of problem.
When they are serious platforms, with real qualified veterinarians at the end of the phone, it is an interesting solution that can avoid unnecessary trips to a physical veterinarian and provide valuable advice in case of vital emergencies.
Nevertheless, it is important to know that these are paid numbers, and that the advice given at the end of the phone is not worth a diagnosis.
Online or video conferencing consultations
More recently, some veterinarians have started to offer online, telephone or videoconference consultations. This evolution is in line with the changes in the medical sector in France, as this type of service is now possible with doctors for humans.
In the case of an online consultation, veterinarians register with dematerialized platforms that manage the entire appointment and payment process. On the patient's side, the owner only has to book a consultation time among the proposed slots and to pay the cost of the consultation online.
On the day, the veterinarian and the owner both connect to the platform, and the consultation just has to start.
Why call an online veterinarian?
Contacting a veterinarian online through a telephone platform allows you to have a quick answer to your concerns about your dog's health, at any time of the day or night. To get a real consultation, by phone or by videoconference, you have to use a different service which proposes to make an appointment online with a veterinarian in order to plan the consultation. This type of service allows you to benefit from a consultation almost "as if you were there", without having to travel.
Can I buy veterinary drugs online?
No, the sale of veterinary drugs online is strictly forbidden, even if you have a prescription. After an online or physical consultation, you should pick up your prescription from the veterinarian you consulted. In some cases, the veterinarian can also fax the prescription directly to a pharmacy near you so that you can pick up your medication.
Are there any free online veterinary services?
No, veterinarians who offer online consultations charge for their services, since they have to pay for them. Phone call platforms that allow you to reach licensed veterinarians in a centralized infrastructure are also charged. A website that offers free online veterinary services should make you wary.
Can I make an appointment with a veterinarian online?
Online medical appointment booking has become widely popular among humans in recent years, and it is now spreading to veterinarians. You may find a veterinarian near you who accepts online bookings.
However, as this type of service is still rather new, not all vets offer it. Online veterinarians offer very useful services to owners who worry a little too much about their dogs' health and tend to consult for nothing.
It is also a remarkably useful option for owners who live far away from a veterinary facility, as well as for those who are not too fond of the telephone.
Loving and educating your pet also means protecting it against the hazards of life. This is why we strongly recommend that you take out health insurance as soon as possible. This will save you astronomical veterinary fees in case of accident or illness.