“My cat likes to lick the shower curtain. Is that normal?” “Why does my cat leave hair ties in his food bowl?” “My cat hates other cats.” These are just a few of the searches I’ve launched in an attempt to find answers regarding my pet’s health and happiness. None of it is particularly alarming, but there are questions that fall in between “everyday weird behavior” and “clearly requires a vet visit.”
That’s where Vet on Demand wants to help. The iOS app (coming soon to Android) connects pet owners and vets, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It works on a subscription basis, so for $25 you get a one-time, 10-minute video call. Right now, the service is directed at the more behavioral and advice questions (like what kind of food is best for puppies and what you should do if your cat isn’t using the litter box), but Vet on Demand hopes its doctors will soon be able to answer health-related questions.
“We’re not looking to replace in-person veterinary visits with our consultations, but do want to save parents from the dreaded ‘Dr. Google’ and encourage proactivity when it comes to questions about their pets’ health,” said Mason Revelette, co-founder of Vet On Demand, said in a statement.
It will be interesting to see how the service deals with health-related questions. While all its vets are licensed, some states have laws about the type of consultations vets can do without seeing the pet and owner in person. A current legal battle in Texas is testing this issue: Retired veterinarian Ron Hines had his license suspended and was fined $1,000 for giving pet owners advice over the Internet. He’s since appealed and lost but may appeal again. “I received emails from Africa, the former Soviet Union, little islands, places where there just isn’t any veterinary knowledge base,” he told U.S. News, claiming that over-the-Internet help is better than none.