California Now Has Telemedicine for Pets

Virtual veterinary visits allow your pet to be treated without ever leaving home.


(Miriam Doerr Martin Frommherz /

Pets are part of your family. So, what do you do if you are social distancing and your fur baby has a cough? Now instead of going to the veterinary clinic in person, you can have a video chat or telemedicine call with your vet.

This new program in California is being run through the end of July 2020. That’s because, the California Department of Consumer Affairs and its Veterinary Medical Board received numerous inquiries from vets to take care of pets via telemedicine according to NBC Bay Area News.

The vets told the medical board that many pet owners were hesitant to take their pets to the clinics due to the coronavirus pandemic. This was a way to ensure that family pets were able to get the care they need.

If you already have a veterinarian, you are all set. California is now allowing existing patients to be diagnosed and treated by telemedicine. or via a video chat, and prescriptions for many conditions can be ordered for six-months, until August 1, 2020.

If you do not already have a vet, you will still have to go to the office but you may not have to go inside. The medical board is recommending limiting contacts. Your pet can be seen outside the clinic building and then your pup or cat can be registered as an existing patient and you will be able to use the telemedicine option.

If there is a medical emergency, then telemedicine can only advise and not diagnose. The medical board said on its website: "If the animal patient is experiencing a medical emergency for which the animal patient has not previously been examined and diagnosed by the veterinarian, the veterinarian may utilize telemedicine only to provide advice until the animal patient can be transported to or seen by a veterinarian."

Since veterinary clinics are essential services, they have remained open during the pandemic but please use social distancing and other measures to protect the doctor, clinic employees and other patient’s families.

According to The Wired, telemedicine for pets is not unique to California. Some telemedicine or tele-triaging services have been around for a while in the form of apps. A tele-triage service can tell you if it is a real emergency and your fur baby has to be seen at an animal hospital or if the condition can wait until your regular clinic is open. Check to see if your vet is connected with a pet app so you can receive diagnostics and pet prescriptions in real time.

"You can’t prescribe, treat, and diagnose, but you can triage, support, provide guidance and general advice," Brandon Werber, CEO and founder of AirVet told The Wired. "That’s really what people need 99 percent of the time at 11 pm when their vet is closed and their dog is puking."

Most pet medical apps can also give you answers to general questions like: My dog just ate a raisin, is it life threatening? Or, is no-grain cat food safe to use? "We provide the ability for a pet owner to ask a question they might think is dumb but they still want advice on," said Laura Berg, vice president of business development at Ask.Vet.

Whether you choose a telemedicine visit with your fur baby’s vet or go the app route, it’s nice to know that help is always available without having to leave home.

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