Growing trend of owners using 'cyber vets' to help their pets

(NPN) - Do you own a pet and wish you had a way to get answers about health issues right from your living room?  Like your own personal vet?

The new trend: Websites offering easy access to "live" animal medical professionals via online chat, text or phone.

Pet owner Tracy Skrasek used one after she walked into her bathroom one night and got a horrifying surprise. Her dogs had chewed up her prescription drugs. "I noticed it was my thyroid medication and of course panic, complete panic set in," said Skrasek.

Her regular vet was closed, so she jumped online and called a website offering round the clock phone help. For $59, she got advice from a vet tech on how to tell if her pets were in trouble.

"It did save me from having to make a trip across town to an emergency vet," said Skrasek.

And we found sites linking pet owners with medical experts are the next big thing. Veterinarian Lori Teller, with the American Veterinary Medical Association, says there are now dozens out there. "If your pet is not feeling well or you think your pet is hurt, you want an answer now," said Teller.

Just Answer and Vet Live allow you to talk with vets and charge per chat.

Ask.Vet lets pet owners text with pet doctors as often as they want for a yearly charge. And NHV Natural Pet Products lets you pay to set up a personal consult.

But Dr. Teller says, in most cases, a vet who has never seen your pet can't diagnose or prescribe medications. "There are lots of rules and regulations that dictate what veterinarians can do with telemedicine. We have to have had that face to face meeting first," says Dr. Teller.

She recommends, if you use one of these sites, ask the experts about their credentials.

She says they can absolutely be a good resource in some situations, but if something seems serious don't delay seeing a vet. "We don't we don't want to misdiagnose or provide inadequate treatment to any pet, and the physical exam is going to be key for that," says Dr. Teller.

Skrasek says the advice was worth it, her dogs were okay.

And now she keeps medication in a hiding spot away from where her beloved  Labradors can get it. "For us it paid off. It was worthwhile. And they even called back the next day to ask how the two girls were doing," says Skrasek.

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