Telus Health launches virtual pet care app in B.C.
Vet says that while innovative veterinary care is welcome, pet owners should not rely solely on telemedicine
Telecommunications provider Telus is dipping its paws into the world of veterinary care, with the launch of a new app offering telemedicine for pets.
Telus Health MyPet functions similarly to Telus's virtual medicine offerings for humans; pet owners download the app onto their smartphones for free and create a profile for their pet. Once that's done, they can schedule an appointment to see a veterinarian by video.
Dr. Koharik Arman, lead veterinarian with Telus Health MyPet, said this program is beneficial to all pet owners, but in particular for those in rural areas that are lacking veterinary care providers.
"So many new adoptions occurred, pets and pet dogs and cats in Canada and the veterinary profession already was experiencing that shortage prior to the pandemic," she said.
"The pandemic exacerbated an already existing issue and essentially meant that people were unable to access medical care when they needed it in a timely manner for their pets."
For pet owners like herself who have very nervous pets, it also means they won't have to take them to a clinic setting where they'll be stressed out, Arman added.
"My own cat and dog both … require sedation for visits to the clinic and so for things that can be addressed virtually from the comfort of home, that is an absolute blessing."
Right now there are about 20 veterinarians that have joined the program, Arman said. According to the Telus Health MyPet website, appointments cost $95, and if the vet thinks you should be seeing someone in person, the appointment cost is refunded.
Telus Health says its vets can handle nutrition and weight management, allergies, behavioural issues, stomach problems, parasites, minor infections, chronic disease management, post-surgery care and palliative care.
Kelowna-based veterinarian Dr. Marco Veenis says while there is a place for telemedicine in the world of veterinary care, there are many situations where that kind of appointment just wouldn't be appropriate.
"You can't get your pets spayed over the phone, so you know there is a limit to what you can do telemedicine-wise," he said.
But, he says, having more access to veterinary expertise isn't a bad thing.
"Lately there is a great shortage of veterinary technicians and that has led to waiting times going up and telemedicine might be another way of expediting services and also making those services a little bit more accessible for people that may have trouble bringing [their] dog in," he said.
But he cautions pet owners to ensure they know what kinds of treatment make sense for telemedicine, and encourages them to seek regular veterinary care when possible.
"I think telemedicine is definitely another tool in our toolbox."
Partnership with SPCA
Telus Health is working with the B.C. SPCA to provide veterinary care to dogs and cats being cared for by the animal welfare organziation.
Additionally, Telus is donating $2 to the animal welfare organization for every download of the app from now until Nov. 26, to a maximum of $20,000.
Because the B.C. SPCA relies on donations to operate, the partnership is "very important" to them, says Nathan Ramsden, senior officer, corporate philanthropy and partnerships.
"It's going to bring in income that can make sure that we continue to do our work," he said.
Anyone who adopts a cat or dog from the Alberni Clayoquot, Burnaby, North Cariboo, Prince Rupert, Quesnel, Shuswap or South Okangan community animal centres will also be offered a discount on Telus Health MyPet services.
With files from Janella Hamilton