Chances are you’ve been encouraged to use telehealth services with your doctors amid the coronavirus pandemic. Virtual appointments with a veterinarian are becoming increasingly popular. Telemedicine is not designed to replace in-person visits—there is no replacement for a hands-on examination. However, video consultations can enhance the care horse owners and barn managers provide.
As a benefit, many of the virtual files can be recorded, saved and preserved with the horse’s full medical record. Cell phone videos or recorded sessions on platforms such as Zoom make it easy to review details if needed.
Here are four scenarios when telemedicine might be a good fit for your horse or a client's horse.
Next steps. Horses get hurt in the pasture or under saddle, and it is hard to tell if it is severe enough to require a visit or if a few days of rest and in-home treatment will suffice. A telemedicine consultation with a veterinarian can be the first step to deciding the level of care the horse needs—is an emergency requiring immediate care or can it wait until the next day.
Follow-up. Following an injury, horse owners can report on the recovery process. Video conferencing makes it easy to provide visuals that can help a veterinarian decide if a farm call is necessary for additional care.
Pre-Purchase exams. Horse owners and farm managers develop close relationships with their veterinarians. When traveling out of state or internationally, a trusted veterinarian can’t go along. Sharing videos of a horse working on a lunge line or under saddle offers the veterinarian who knows the horse the best a glimpse of the horse and an opportunity to evaluate potential soundness concerns.
Performance issues. Trainers and riders might notice a horse is “off” during a ride, but they are unable to duplicate that issue during a vet exam. Videoing a training or riding session and sharing that file can give the veterinarian a clearer picture of potential issues not visible when the horse is walked or trotted in-hand.
Telemedicine is not fool-proof, nor should it be used in place of on-farm or in-practice visits. While the quality of video has significantly improved, it’s not always possible to observe the extent of an injury or wound. In some areas, spotty cell phone reception or poor internet connections can make it tricky to use.
But for first-touch or follow-up health consultations, telemedicine with your veterinarian can be a great alternative.