Telehealth for sick foster pets available now

Volunteers fostering sick pets for the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society can now connect with a Telehealth-like video conferencing service.

New program aims to provide remote communities with care, cut back veterinary costs

The online program Healthy Pets provides telemedicine services for volunteers fostering sick pets, and it's available 24 hours a day. (Jackie Sharkey/CBC)

Volunteers fostering sick pets for the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society can now connect with a Telehealth-like video conferencing service, which launched this month to help reduce veterinary costs.

It gives people who are anxious about the pets in their care access to access on-call veterinarians 24 hours a day.

The animals most often placed in short-term foster care were either abandoned or taken from abusive homes, and require extra attention and all-day care.

When the pets experience even a minor discomfort or issue, their foster parents often rush them to the nearest emergency service, sometimes unnecessarily, the Ontario SPCA's Daryl Vaillancourt told CBC Radio's Ontario Morning.

'Really good advice'

"Statistically, most of these animals don't have anything that's that urgent," he said.

"[The new service] is a video conference … with a veterinarian and they can give you some really good advice … [and in] an emergency then they can connect you with a [vet]."

The agency is using a third-party online service called Healthy Pets. It typically charges a fee, but the costs for foster parents are covered by the Ontario SPCA.

The service also aims to help people in remote communities access veterinary advice without having to travel great distances. People can call in with any concern they have, no matter how small. 

"They need that support oftentimes," Vaillancourt said. "These foster parents don't have their own dedicated veterinary that they go to, so [this] gives them access."

CBC Radio's Ontario Morning

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