Thinking of Consulting an Online Veterinarian?

Before consulting an online veterinarian, make sure it's the right thing to do, and that you're getting what you think you're getting.

I've talked about the advantages of free online consultations. Here I'll outline some cautions for using any kind of Web based service.

Cat using laptop

The ease of being able to consult a vet or cat behavior specialist online is certainly a benefit, and a big attraction.

It can also give you some peace of mind by confirming that you and your vet are headed in the right direction.

But, if you use an online veterinarian, it may be too easy to click that mouse. There are several disadvantages to using an online veterinarian for advice...

  • First, the vet can't evaluate your cat directly, and has never seen your cat before.
  • Second, and related, the vet has to rely on your description of the problem, and render an opinion based solely on that. Look for interactive video to bridge some of that gap some day (but that will probably cost you).
  • Third, if you're using a free service, you may have to wait extended periods of time for a response. In addition, that response is likely to be somewhat vague and short. After all, it's free information. This may impact your decision on what your next move should be, however, and therefore impact your cat's health. If you need a quicker and/or more complete answer, you can use a paid service, such as JustAnswer.com.
  • Fourth, my concern is that cats don't see the vet enough as it is, and perhaps this might encourage people to bring their cats to the vet less often. I hope the opposite is true.

The above issues are pretty much common sense, but they make one big assumption, and that is that the online veterinarian in question is qualified to review your case.

So, my biggest caution here is that you make sure that the site you're dealing with actually has real veterinarians (or vet techs, or pet behavior experts, depending upon your needs). Keeping the above in mind while using these Web-based services will help you have a better, more reliable experience.


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