No comments yet from patients, but pet owners are increasingly connecting their dogs and cats to virtual veterinary care. There is even now a subscription product that combines telehealth and pet insurance in an intriguing, albeit limited, way.
Another consequence of COVID-19 is the increase in medical advice for pets by phone, text or video call. âAt the start of the pandemic, veterinary clinics had to adapt quickly to new ways of serving their clients and their pets. We have seen more and more providers offering telehealth services, especially for non-emergency cases, âsays Katie Blakeley, vice president of pet insurance at MetLife.
The telehealth of individual veterinarians is now joined by several new fully virtual services, including Pawp, the hybrid healthcare and insurance offer. From pet insurance, Pawp takes a monthly fee – $ 20 to cover up to six cats and dogs in a household – and the reimbursement promise, up to an annual payment of up to $ 3. $ 000 for a medical emergency.
Unlike other pet insurers, Pawp also provides care itself. Your subscription gives you unlimited access 24/7, by phone, SMS and video chat, to company vets who provide advice and diagnostics, but no prescriptions yet.
Pawp was born after co-founder and CEO Marc Atiyeh saw a gap in the pet care market while caring for his puppies Chelsea and Fluf. Contacting a vet for every question or problem he had was expensive and inconvenient, he realized, and yet reliable advice was scarce elsewhere.
âAs a new pet parent, I felt there was a real dearth of verified information you can trust. I wanted real expert advice, not an anecdotal blog post, âAtiyeh explains.
We haven’t tried Pawp, but here’s our take on what it promises, plus some potential pitfalls – and a quick primer on virtual pet care.
How telehealth works for pets
Few people expect pet telehealth to replace face-to-face care entirely. Instead, the option is best suited for conditions such as “ear infections or skin lesions”, for which diagnoses “are often straightforward and fairly visual,” says Dr Rebecca Greenstein, veterinary medical advisor in the service of Rover pet care. Additionally, says Greenstein, “telehealth appointments can be particularly useful for anxious pets or those with limited mobility, as they can potentially receive valuable medical help without leaving their homes.”
And sometimes, she adds, âTelemedicine can be helpful in managing a patient’s mild symptoms, even if a firm diagnosis is not found. For some patients with minor stomach aches, for example, a little supportive care may be enough to keep them feeling better until the signs go away on their own, says Greenstein.
In-person follow-up of a virtual appointment may be necessary, of course, for practical or regulatory reasons. Not all providers are willing or legally able to diagnose and treat every condition, or write a prescription for it, after just one virtual visit. Diagnosis or prescription, or both, may be refused for problems requiring direct examination, and prescriptions must be approved by the telehealth provider in the state in which care is provided.
Pawp isn’t the only telehealth option dedicated to pets. Another subscription service, Dutch, has also launched in some states at a higher monthly rate ($ 39) and with a focus on allergies and anxiety. Ask.Vet offers telehealth for a fixed price of $ 19.99 per appointment. But as an early and inexpensive subscription pet telehealth service, Pawp has several attractive features.
Quick access to a veterinarian 24 hours a day
Atiyeh says you’ll connect to a Pawp vet within two minutes of making a call, any day, anytime. Assuming this promise is kept, it makes the service considerably faster and easier than putting your cat or dog in the car and driving to the clinic. And that probably exceeds the speed of calling your vet for a quick consultation over the phone or video, especially if it’s in the middle of the night or at a similar time.
Relatively low monthly cost
Pawp’s monthly fee of $ 19 is lower than the typical cost of insurance for a cat and much lower than the premium for insuring almost all dogs with any insurer. According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), the average cost of accident and sickness coverage – which offers a wider range of benefits than Pawp – for a cat is around $ 30, while premiums for average dogs are around $ 50.
Additionally, the Pawp plan provides coverage for up to six dogs or cats in the home, each requiring their own plan with standard pet insurance coverage.
Additionally, when pet insurance requires minimal expenses in the course of a year before vet consultation coverage begins to be reimbursed, Pawp does not have such deductibles.
Valuable emergency blanket – but with caveats
The Pawp Emergency Fund “is basically a safety net for bills from emergency vets,” Atiyeh explains. It allows you, once a year for one of your pets, to cover the immediate cost of treating an unforeseen “life-threatening” emergency.
The Advantage comes with caveats, and plenty of them. They start with the requirement that the problem indeed poses an immediate threat to the animal’s life. You should also seek approval for the emergency to be covered before treatment begins at the clinic you take the animal to – and, depending on the problem, getting it ahead of time could be life-threatening. in danger. You are also out of luck if the medical problem has already been diagnosed but failed to treat it properly.
Yet the fund can indeed be a money saver that offers protection against a sudden and serious medical attack, such as an accident or heart attack due to undiagnosed heart disease.
Pets are an essential part of the family.
Pumpkin pet insurance covers your pet from head to toe for life.
Take stock of the pros and cons of Pawp
For its many advantages, Pawp is not a complete veterinary option, and not just because of the limitations of telehealth in diagnosing all problems. Even if your veterinarian Pawp diagnoses the problem, âat this time our vets cannot write prescriptions during a telehealth visit; they can only do it in person, âsays Atiyeh.
However, a customer service representative for the company said the company is expected to implement the Rx service in at least some states in the coming months, but only for conditions that can be reliably diagnosed without an in-person examination. . Other improvements are also planned, including the ability to book a particular veterinarian with whom you have already spoken.
Pawp provides easy and helpful consultation on medical and other issues, such as nutrition. This could be useful, especially if you own several dogs and cats and want to seek advice on various aspects of their care. The emergency fund can also give you peace of mind against the worst that happens to one of your pets, and quickly, even if its conditions may prevent you from actually using it.
If these features add up to $ 20 in value for you in a month, Pawp might be worth a try, especially if it implements these service improvements soon. Alternatively, those who already have pet insurance – and deep pockets – might even consider getting the service in addition to the insurance, to supplement what a typical pet insurance policy offers.
Keep in mind, however, that you’ll likely still need an in-person veterinarian if you get this service, given Pawp’s limitations for diagnosis and prescriptions.