During the pandemic, telemedicine for pets (and humans) became a necessity and rapidly moved the adoption of the technology forward. While Coastal Animal Hospital has been utilizing telemedicine since 2014 (and actually published the very first scientific article ever on telemedicine for animals!), the laws in California severely restricted how we could use telemedicine as we were only allowed to use it for recheck examinations. If there was a new issue that a pet developed, even if we had recently seen that pet for a wellness exam or another issue, we couldn’t use telemedicine to diagnose and treat the new problem.
Enter AB1399. This assembly bill was signed by Governor Newsom and went into effect January 1, 2024. This bill dramatically changed the legal language surrounding telemedicine and opened up the ability of our veterinarians to use telemedicine as they see fit. Now if your pet has a minor skin wound, a behavioral issue, or any other number of ailments, our veterinarians can assess the situation and prescribe medications if they deem it appropriate. Using telemedicine in this way can not only be way more convenient for you and your pet, it can also help provide another form of access if you have questions you need answered but our in-clinic doctors are fully booked for the day.
While telemedicine has the potential to minimize delays in treatment and stress of a vet visit, please note that there are limitations to what is possible via a virtual visit. One thing is guaranteed to happen during a telemedicine visit – our vets will be able to answer your questions and let you know whether your pet needs to be seen in person right away or not. You will be able to ask your questions and get real (not the unverified scary internet) information about your pet. Some issues can be fully resolved via telemedicine, some issues cannot. For example, if your pet suddenly starts limping on a back leg and you can’t bring them into the clinic, our veterinarians can watch them walk via real time video, talk to you about the various reasons why they may be limping, and often prescribe pain medications to make them more comfortable until they can be seen in person (or get better on their own). We obviously can’t diagnose the actual problem since we cannot feel the leg and find the source of the pain – but we can give you the information you need and make them more comfortable until that is possible.
While there are 100% online veterinary telemedicine companies out there, we have a significant advantage of being a hybrid telemedicine provider. As a brick and mortar business, if you need medicine the same day, need to drop off a stool sample to look for a reason why your pet started to suddenly have runny stools, or need other labs drawn to make sure they are ok, we can accommodate those needs. Also, we have full access to our patient’s medical records to see their full history and also have the veterinarians you have come to know and love at Coastal. While we don’t have evening and weekend hours at this time, we hope to expand those offerings in the future.
We are all very happy that AB1399 became a reality in California and now our veterinarians can use their professional judgment when it comes to telemedicine. We hope your pet doesn’t become ill and need the service, but if they do, we now have another way we can connect with you to work together to help them find relief.