April 10, 2023

Pet Owners Need Access to Telemedicine Amid Nationwide Shortage of Veterinarians, New ASPCA Survey Reveals

Today, the ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) released new data from a national survey that reveals one quarter of pet owners said there was a time in the past two years when they wanted or needed veterinary care and were not able to get it. Additionally, more than two-thirds of respondents (69 percent) that had an unmet need for vet care in the past two years reported an interest in using veterinary telemedicine if it were available and two out of three respondents (66 percent) reported that they would see a veterinarian more often if telemedicine were available.

Veterinarians practice telemedicine when they diagnose a condition or recommend a treatment based on a phone or video consult rather than a physical examination of an animal. Telemedicine is a lifeline for many pets whose owners face serious financial, geographical and logistical barriers to accessing veterinary care, including seniors, working families and those who live in underserved or remote areas with few or no veterinarians. The current shortage of veterinarians and other veterinary professionals is also creating challenges for pet owners trying to access care, with one study noting that 75 million pets in the U.S. could be without veterinary care by 2030.

In addition, pets who are frightened of going to the vet, potentially aggressive or difficult to transport can also benefit immensely from better access to virtual veterinary care. In many cases, it may be the only way for those animals to receive care.

“When used responsibly, telemedicine can reduce animal suffering, address financial and logistical barriers to veterinary care, keep pets in their homes and extend the capacity of animal shelters to serve animals and their communities,” said Dr. Camille DeClementi, VMD, DABVT, vice president of the ASPCA Animal Hospital. “Telemedicine was essential to ensuring pet owners could access veterinary care during the Covid-19 pandemic, and this data shows that not only is the demand for telemedicine services still high, but the benefits of virtual veterinary care extend far beyond the pandemic.”

Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, federal and state policymakers issued emergency orders that temporarily waived existing regulations and laws preventing veterinarians from using telemedicine. Unfortunately, these pandemic-era rules have expired and antiquated laws are blocking access to this vital tool by either prohibiting veterinarians from establishing new patient relationships using telemedicine technology or by requiring veterinarians conduct an in person physical examination of a patient before a veterinarian may legally diagnose or treat animal ailments.

The ASPCA supports public policy that enables highly trained, licensed veterinarians to determine when to use telemedicine technology and is urging state policymakers to advance measures that will enable veterinarians to use telemedicine to deliver safe and effective veterinary appointments. Several states are considering proposals that would expand access to virtual veterinary care, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida and Michigan.

For more information about the ASPCA’s efforts to increase access to veterinary care or to sign the petition in support of expanding access to telemedicine, please visit ASPCA.

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