Virtual Vet Visits Now Available for CA Pet Owners

More patients are seeing their doctors online, via telemedicine. Californians can now add pets to those virtual house calls.

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If your cat has a cough, your dog has digestive trouble, or your ferret has fainted, you no longer need to rush to the veterinarian for a diagnosis.

California veterinarians just got the green light from state regulators to do telemedicine -- seeing patients via a video call -- through at least the end of July.

The California Department of Consumer Affairs and its Veterinary Medical Board say they heard from a lot of veterinarians who asked for a telemedicine option. Vets told regulators many pet owners were reluctant to take their animals to a veterinary clinic because of COVID-19 concerns.

In response, the state just this month issued waivers that let veterinarians do many exams remotely, if certain conditions are met.

If you and your pet already have a vet, you're set! The state says as long as your pet is an existing patient, the veterinarian can now diagnose and treat them for a new condition by telemedicine. Also, vets can order prescription refills for six extra months without an in-person appointment, but only for certain prescriptions, until August 1.

If you're visiting a vet for the first time, you'll still have to go to the office, but you don't necessarily need to go inside. The California Veterinary Medical Association is recommending its members minimize contact.

Chris Chmura's new puppy Conrad looks a bit tired after a long day at the office. (Photo: NBC Bay Area)

For example, when our consumer investigator Chris Chmura took his new puppy Conrad for his first veterinary visit, the vet asked Chris and Conrad to stay in the car. The doctor came outside, and took Conrad inside for some shots. A veterinary assistant returned Conrad to the car. Now, Conrad is on the books as a patient, so if he gets sick, he's eligible for an online appointment.

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