Veterinary medicine traditionally takes a more hands-on approach compared to human-based healthcare.
For one thing, pets can’t talk to explain their symptoms to a professional and get an immediate diagnosis for what ails them– although it would be great if they did. Instead, a vet must examine them closely and feel for anything unusual that may be responsible for their discomfort.
As a result, the uptake of telemedicine in veterinary healthcare progresses at a much slower pace than that of human care.
Nonetheless, more and more pet owners are taking to the idea thanks to the new normal of social distancing. That’s not going to change any time soon.
That being said, the question on most people’s minds is – Can you get a vet prescription online, and how does it work? Here’s everything you need to know about it.
When Would You Need an Online Vet Consultation and Prescription
Aside from the obvious physical distancing guidelines in place, there are several other reasons why you would consider consulting with a vet online.
For starters, your pet might be terrified of foreign environments – vet hospitals being one of them. Maybe you just dread the idea of having to drag your pet to your local vet clinic because the last time you did, it was a nightmare for both of you.
As great of an alternative as that may be, you need to be able to tell when it’s okay to use an online vet and when you need to physically take your animal to the doctor.
If you start to experience symptoms of a heart attack, for instance, reaching out for your computer to hop on a video call with your physician is probably counterintuitive at that point. You would need to get to the nearest ER as soon as you can.
Likewise, if your pet is showing signs of being severely ill, you’ll need to take them to a vet clinic for medical assistance.
Here’s a list of some of the common illnesses most vets treat online:
- Behavioral problems like anxiety
- Ear infections
- Food allergies
- Skin allergies that result in itching or infections
- Superficial wounds
- Upper respiratory tract infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Worms and other intestinal parasites
Most vets usually charge the same in-office fee for online consultations, although they may credit it if it turns out that an in-office visit is required.
Getting Vet Prescriptions Online – Is It Legal
Although most veterinarians have been rolling out telemedicine alongside their existing clinic-based practices, it does come with a caveat that limits the extent to which they can issue online vet prescriptions.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the governing body for veterinarians, virtual consultations should only be used on their existing patients to maintain their usual veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR).
AVMA’s telemedicine policy advises that the veterinarian needs to have physically examined the animal within the last 12 months.
They should be generally responsible for diagnosing illness, prescribing the antibiotics used in birds or any other animal, or otherwise treating the pet in question.
AVMA does grant an exception to the VCPR requirement in what it terms as “emergencies,” although some states temporarily suspended it to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) later suspended in-office VCPR on a federal level to allow vets to issue virtual prescriptions.
Even then, there are several limitations placed on online vets who write prescriptions, so you may still need to take your sick animal to your local veterinarian for them to prescribe certain medications.
How to Get a Vet Prescription Online
If you need a virtual vet prescription for bird antibiotics, dewormers, or any other kind of prescription-only drug, you will need to make a traditional appointment for an in-office visit with your vet. If your pet bird needs medication, your veterinarian can only recommend over-the-counter drugs, and even then, this needs to be in line with the existing laws in your state.
In most cases, if your pet needs prescription-only medication, you will have to take them to your local vet clinic to get a prescription written up. Over-the-counter antibiotics for birds, or any other kind of medication required to treat minor infections, can be prescribed remotely by your vet.
Here’s how the process works:
- Visit an online vet service and set up an appointment with a vet
- You’ll need to fill in the online form provided with the requested information
- Pick a time that’s convenient for both you and your pet
- Once you’ve submitted the form, a veterinarian will get in touch with you via email or text confirming the appointment
- Virtual consultations take place through teleconference using apps like Zoom
Ensure you have your pet with you during the consultation. If it’s bigger and not able to move around easily, using a tablet or smartphone would be a better option to allow the vet to get a closer look at them through the video call.
Based on their findings, they would either recommend an in-person visit at a vet clinic or recommend over-the-counter medication for their ailment. These may include:
- Deworming medication
- Ivermectin for mites
- Anti-fungal medication
As a rule of thumb, if the condition of your pet does not improve with these home-based treatments, you will need to set up an in-office appointment with a local vet.
Talk to a Licensed Vet
Telemedicine offers a convenient alternative for many pet owners, especially when diagnosing and treating minor illnesses.
On the flip side, it does come with its fair share of risks. Grainy image uploads that are supposed to diagnose a lump and incomplete medical records can adversely affect the quality of healthcare you get for your pet.
If your bird is showing signs of illness, use our online Vet Chat to talk to a qualified veterinarian today to advise on the best course of action to take.