(KRON) — During the pandemic, we saw a massive increase in pet adoptions, which means more demand for vet appointments. Now, the industry is overwhelmed and some say being able to do a simple FaceTime with a vet will help.
We know that virtual appointments with your doctor work, and the last three years is proof of that. But what about when your dog or cat needs medical attention?
The company Dutch has been matching pet owners with veterinarians virtually since 2021 and founder Joe Spector explained the benefits to us.
“There’s things like flea and tick that you can tell, there are things like a rash that you can start to get treatment for,” Spector explained.
It’s a process of diagnosing conditions over a video call and then prescribing treatment, but Spector says it’s not easy everywhere. California has had laws in place since the early 90s restricting telemedicine for pets.
“It’s so restrictive that a vet can’t even tell you what product to get on Amazon to buy,” Spector said. “That’s how restrictive it is, they can only kind of give you general advice.”
Spector says virtual appointments don’t work for every pet and that more serious situations, such as spay and neuter or cancer, require in-person appointments.
One person who is aware of the veterinarian shortage is San Francisco SPCA CEO Dr. Jennifer Scarlett. She also says that telemedicine is part of the solution.
“In the long term we need more veterinarians, in the short term we need tools such as telemedicine, the suffering and the lack of care that’s happening right now,” said Scarlett.
The California Veterinary Medical Board is the government agency that calls the shots, and the SF SPCA has filed a federal lawsuit against the board with the hopes to expand access to virtual care.
KRON On is streaming live news now
“Under the first amendment that veterinarians have the right to give professional speech and clients have the right to receive it,” Scarlett explained.
The lawsuit was filed two years ago, and Dr. Scarlett says the problem is too serious to wait. That’s why she’s also supporting a bill recently introduced in the California legislature to ease restrictions and possibly entice licensed veterinarians who have left the field to start working virtually.
“Maybe they have family pressures, maybe they have physical pressures where they just want to practice virtually, so it’s a wonderful way to engage more veterinarians and keep them into practice,” Scarlett said.
To give an idea of just how stressful working conditions are for veterinarians right now, the CDC says that one out of six vets have considered suicide. Another big reason why Dr. Scarlett and Spector both say telemedicine is needed.