When you suspect that there is something wrong with your pet, but you aren’t sure if it requires a trip to the vets, it can be hard to know exactly what to do.
Getting advice before you make a trip to the vet is probably your best option. This way, you don’t have to struggle to get your pet into a carrier/into the car/with public transport, and you could also save some money on vets appointments.
You also don’t want to put your pet through any unnecessary stress, especially if they are already feeling under the weather. These are just some of the reasons why several online and app-based vets have been set up in the last couple of years.
The advice may suggest that you do take your pet for a physical veterinary clinic visit if it could be something serious that needs to be ruled out. But this way you will know it is not an unnecessary trip.
During the Coronavirus outbreak, many vets operated on an appointment-only, limited basis. People were also shielding, unable to leave the house. This made the presence of online vets grow rapidly
Why pets may need online vet help
There are several reasons why your pet may not be able to travel to your vet practice for a checkup:
- If they are elderly or have existing health or mobility issues
- It is a pet who hates getting into a carrier and you don’t want to do this unless absolutely necessary
- You can’t make it to the vet, as you don’t have access to transport or need to look after children/other pets
- You live too far away from your dedicated vets to make potentially unnecessary visits
- If you don’t think it is actually serious enough
- If your vet practice can’t fit you in – many in the UK are going through a crisis due to the aftereffects of Brexit and COVID
How you can get online vet advice from home
You may just want to chat with somebody to get some advice on why your dog is limping, what the odd noises your cat is making are, or why the behaviour of your bearded dragon has changed.
Maybe you can’t get to your vets as the out-of-hours practice is too far away. Perhaps they are too ill to travel. Not to worry – there are ways in which you can get help for your pet without physically visiting your veterinarian.
This is probably the best bet. This way, you get expert advice in the comfort of your own home using an app or online website. And, you can research ahead of time and get ready for the appointment as you would if going for a physical vet visit.
Try to ensure you are talking to somebody face-to-face. Safely research who they are and how they are qualified to give you this advice. The face-to-face video call advantage is that they can see your pet if they need to check something, and you know that you are talking to a real human.
Some can even send out medication if they feel your pet will definitely benefit from it, and there are no doubts about what is wrong with them. The best-trusted apps and online vet websites here in the UK will be linked to a physical vet practice. This can be a franchised branch or a larger, chain company.
This way, they will be able to contact your nearest vet if you do need to see somebody and book you in straight away. They will pass on the information you have given to ensure a speedier visit.
When you sign up for online vets, there may be an annual subscription fee. Or, you may have to pay for the online appointments on a case by case basis.
But some charges can be claimed back through insurance. Some are also linked to insurance policies as an added extra benefit to standard policies. If you buy ITCH flea treatment on a subscription basis, access to FirstVet’s Video Vet is free and unlimited.
Avoid non-video vets
Avoid chat popups from sites that do not offer video calling advice or which don’t have a physical link to genuine veterinary practices. You don’t know who you are talking to, and they could just be giving out generic advice unrelated to your specific issue or breed of pet.
Many are also based in the USA or elsewhere, so advice can vary to that of UK practice.
We have reviewed all of the best online vets, only selecting those which are UK based. They have trusted professionals and are really easy to use when you need them the most.
Phoning your registered practice
When you are registered with a vet, they are free to call when they are open. Many will also give you an Out Of Hours contact number. This is often a larger practice they are linked to which is open 24 hours.
You will usually be able to talk to the receptionist or other members of the practice staff. They can give general advice on whether they think that your pet needs to come into the surgery. They will be able to see your pet’s medical history. Receptionists should be able to fit you in ASAP if they think it is something serious.
The only issue is how much time they have to talk to you. Vets practices are very busy during peak times. You may not be able to talk to someone for 10-20 minutes as you would with an online vet appointment.
Have a look around online too. But be aware – while you should avoid chat pop-ups, you also can’t always trust the advice of some of the websites out there. The information may not come from dedicated veterinarians.
Here at Petz, we have Dr Joanna de Klerk to hand, giving plenty of professional assistance in our Advice Centre, so you can trust us.
This can be a hit-and-miss scenario.
Some dedicated pet shops out there will have staff members who know the ins and outs of your animal. For instance, a dedicated reptile shop will often have somebody to hand who knows about all of the most popular animals, such as bearded dragons and snakes.
But they could struggle if you have a more obscure animal. Or you may have to visit a non-specialist shop where most staff are not really sure of giving the correct advice. After all, they don’t want to be held responsible for false information.
If you believe that your issue is generalised and common, they could give general tips on what to do. But there is a good chance that if it is obscure, they point you in the direction of a vet practice or somebody else who may be able to give you a definitive answer.
It is worth noting that larger chain pet shops such as Pets At Home will often have dedicated experts in-store. These can answer some questions about most pets. Many also have a vet’s practice within the building with someone who can give advice.
Some also have groomers inside. If your dog often visits a groomer it could be worth ringing them if it is an issue with their claws, ears or skin and your groomer is trained in this area.
There is an (albeit small) chance that your vet practice could offer home visits. While these may most commonly be associated with farm animals, or if a pet is at the end of its life and can’t make it into the surgery for euthanasia, there can be other circumstances in which vets feel it best if they come to you.
Your pet may be too unwell or old to travel. Or you may simply be unable to leave home or get to the surgery. Some vets can come into your home in these circumstances. But it does depend on whether they have any appointments, and whether they would be leaving their practice without cover.
Obviously, some things cannot be carried out at your home:
- Ultrasound scans
- Administration of intravenous fluid
- Chemotherapy and radiation treatments
There is also a chance that in certain circumstances, a vet may feel uncomfortable coming into your home (such as if your pet can be unwelcoming of visitors). You may also be uncomfortable with them coming in. So this is a possibility only for when there is no other option and they need to be seen physically.