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How does veterinary telemedicine work? *H&H Plus*

During lockdown, vets turned to telemedicine, but how does it work and is there a future for it post-Covid? Stephanie Bateman investigates

Remote vetting, or telemedicine, is the provision of veterinary care without the vet being present. Instead, the consultation is held on the phone, via video call, or through text message or email.

Telemedicine isn’t new – since the development of mobile phone technology, owners have been communicating with vets in this way, sending photographs, videos and updates remotely. And it works well for non emergency enquiries such as skin problems and minor wound ailments, as well as follow-up consultations, particularly for owners living in remote locations. But for more serious conditions and emergencies, the vet must attend.

However, there is a grey area and this applies to the remote prescribing of certain medications. Under normal circumstances, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) states that every horse must undergo an examination by a vet before prescription medication can be given, including antibiotics and phenylbutazone (bute). But when Covid-19 hit, the RCVS decided that this rule should be lifted temporarily to allow the remote prescribing of such medicines.