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Pawz Ltd, a UK company founded by Diwaker Singh, Radu Georgescu and Francesco Cardoletti has launched PawSquad, a new on-demand veterinary video consultation service for pet owners.
The service offers pet owners a 15 minute online consultation with a veterinary surgeon for £15, any time from 6:00am to midnight, seven days a week.
PawSquad points out that the service cannot offer a diagnosis - apart from the fact that it would be contrary to the CoPC, it's obviously not possible without a physical exam - so the service is designed to offer more general health advice concerning such things as behaviour, nutrition and the management of long-term, non-emergency conditions.
Andrew Francis BVSc CertVC, DipECVIM-CA MRCVS ex-Head of Cardiology at Anderson Moores Veterinary Referrals is the company's Chief Veterinary Officer, sitting alongside Andrew Ash MRCVS (the BSAVA Past Pres). Andrew #1 said: "Currently, pet owners have only two options when they need advice about their pets' health and welfare. They either take time out of busy schedules to visit the vet or, when a visit to the vet is not possible they search the Internet for non professional and frequently unreliable information."
Francesco Cardoletti said: "It’s important to understand that PawSquad is a supplementary service – it’s not replacing traditional veterinary services .There are limits to the services you can digitally provide. If an animal is seriously ill, it needs to get to a bricks and mortar veterinary clinic and be examined by a vet."
I tried out the new service with a question about my dog's slightly worrying habit of growling at one of my children. It was a question which we had not thus far raised with our normal vet because it hadn't been enough of a concern at the last consultation. But it seems to be getting slightly worse, and my wife and I had recently talked about getting advice. It seemed like just the sort of situation where an informal chat with a vet could be helpful.
Completing the preconsultation details was a breeze, slowed only by the need to shove the dog on a set of scales (I didn't know what she weighs, and it's needed for the consultation). Thereafter, only one hiccup when it transpired that Safari, the browser I was using, is incompatible. I switched to Chrome, which is.
The consultation itself was excellent. Within a few seconds, the very charming Angie Henderson MRCVS appeared on my screen. It transpired I was her very first consultation since the service was launched yesterday! We discussed the problem. She reassured me that one of the things I was doing (getting the child to feed the dog under supervision) was a good idea, and we discussed a number of other positive reinforcement strategies to try and improve our dog's behaviour. She explained that she wasn't one for certain types of negative reinforcement, but that using a spray bottle of water when the dog behaved inappropriately could help. She explained that we would need to do these things several times a day for them to have an effect, and even then it may take some considerable time, and may need the services of a behaviourist. She also reassured me that the dog would be unlikely to do anything worse than nip, whilst stressing that even a nip is very upsetting for a child, so it does need to be dealt with.
All in all, I came away reassured, with some very useful suggestions and a clear idea of what we need to do. £15 very well spent. I gather that I should also have received a written post-consultation report by email, which didn't arrive because of some technical glitch. But that's slightly by-the-by; the icing on the cake.
I can also see the service would be very useful as a sort of out-of-hours triage, in other words offering me the ability to have a "my-dog-has-just-eaten-three-kilos-of-Green-and-Blacks-what-next-consultation?" at 11:00pm at night.
If the service proves popular amongst pet owners, the question remains whether it will reduce the number of people seeking and paying for traditional consultations. I suspect not. Perhaps the reverse will happen as pet owners use the system to corroborate their feeling that the dog might need a physical exam. As part of the service and with your permission, PawSquad forwards a copy of the consultation report to your normal vet.
Again if the service proves popular, it seems to offer the potential for a nice additional income stream for veterinary surgeons, especially locums, which can be earned in the hours you specify, from the comfort of your home. PawSquad says it pays vets between £12-£32 per hour; equivalent to £60K per annum. Whilst the company doesn't directly employ vets, it will provide liability insurance provided by the VDS.
PawSquad says it also plans to recruit veterinary nurses later in the year, to offer advice to new pet owners on nutrition, behaviour and the environment.
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