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B.C. vet says people can help sick pets without ever leaving home

Animal doctor wants more people to know about online veterinary telemedicine.

With veterinary shortages and lack of after-hour care being an issue for pet owners around the country, Port Alberni veterinarian Roberta Templeton wants to spread the word on veterinary telemedicine.

Telemedicine is very similar to an in-person appointment, except your vet can check out your pet from miles away. During a virtual appointment, Templeton and other telemedical vets are able to get as much history as they typically would get in the exam room.

“Obviously a physical exam’s a little different, so it’s more of a distant exam than a hands-on exam. But I can still do a number of things with owners,” Templeton said.

“I’ve had owners take heart rates for me before and I can assess gum colour, they can lift the lip up and show me teeth. If you’re willing to get creative, you can have owners do anything.”

A veterinarian is permitted to prescribe any drug via telemedicine, whether it be an antibiotic or flea control. Telemedicine is also an excellent tool in helping determine if an animal needs to go to emergency or not.

“It’s not always about dealing with the issue at hand, but just giving people the peace of mind that they can wait until tomorrow morning and call into their regular vet, or if they really should head down to emergency — toxin, ingestions, things like that.”

“So I can kind of help owners, give them guidance depending on what they observe their pet eat and how much they weigh and things like that. Sometimes I’m even just talking about allergies with owners.”

Templeton said another important advantage of telemedicine is that it allows for some veterinarians to take after-hours appointments, and see more people.

READ MORE: Vet shortage causes grief for vets, farmers and pet owners

Templeton is a part of Vetster, an online marketplace that allows licensed veterinarians and veterinary technicians to provide virtual veterinary care and prescriptions. A locum for multiple vet clinics who has worked at Port Alberni’s Manzini Animal Hospital since 2018, she has been on Vetster for two months.

She said not enough people know about vet telemedicine. She wants more people made aware because it’s important to know they have options.

“So far, my appointments have been really a wide range of things from emergency to more just general health and wellness, maintenance, things like that. Everything from ear infections to toxin ingestions. I find that it’s people all over B.C., so it’s not necessarily just in Port Alberni.”

Vetster is accessible for pet owners all across Canada. To book an appointment, all you need to do is click the book appointment option on the front page of the Vetster website at, choose your location, and it will provide you with veterinarians in the area that are available. Under each veterinarian’s bio, it will say if they have the ability to prescribe medication.

The recent closure of Highway 4, when after-hours patients couldn’t get out to Nanaimo for emergency hospital care underscored the need for the service.

“So when all the clinics in Port Alberni close after 5 p.m. they’re in trouble in terms of getting after-hours care. But I will say that during those road closures, Manzini Animal Hospital did develop an on-call schedule so that patients could be seen after-hours on a temporary basis, just while the road was closed.”