Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ask.vet Provides Veterinary Advice Via Text Message

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ask.vet Provides Veterinary Advice Via Text Message

Article excerpt

Your dog has diarrhea. Your cat is shaking after an application of a flea or tick medication. Your dog has eaten chocolate left on the counter. Your cat walks away from the dinner bowl after eating only half of the food.

Like many pet owners, I've faced one or more of these scenarios. It's a scary moment as you wonder if this is a life-and-death situation that requires a trip to an emergency hospital. Or is it something that will clear up on its own or with a routine visit to your veterinarian? And what if your vet can't see you for several days?

A company called Ask.Vet (www.ask.vet) says their online service can help.

All of the examples in my opening paragraph are from the home page of Ask.Vet and they make up a large percentage of concerns of pet owners, said Cherice Roth, director of veterinary operations and programs at Ask.Vet. She also practices at a small animal hospital in Albuquerque, N.M., where she is chief of staff.

Ask.Vet has been in business for a couple of years, Dr. Roth said, and in that time they have fielded questions from 26,000 people. The majority of their concerns, about 80 percent, "can be addressed without a vet visit," according to the website.

This service is for people who are savvy with the internet and with cell phones, because questions are sent to Ask.Vet by text message. One of 25 veterinarians around the country will text a response and participate in a dialogue with the pet owner.

Let's start with the common concern about diarrhea, especially with blood in the stool. "Bloody stool is actually common in dogs," Dr. Roth said.

You would be asked to describe the diarrhea - amount, consistency, color and smell. You might be asked to send a camera phone photo of the stool. The same detail would be requested for another common problem - vomiting. People have been asked to send video of the pet vomiting, she said.

In the best-case scenario for diarrhea, the veterinarians might advise you to stop feeding the dog for 12 hours to give the intestinal system a chance to calm down. I've gotten that advice from my own veterinarians for multiple dogs over the years. …

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