Vets Now has launched a new veterinary voice assistant on Amazon's Alexa and Google Home so pet owners can ask for veterinary advice on their smart speaker. 

The new voice skill offers three main features, a chocolate toxicity calculator for dogs, the nearest emergency vet finder, and answers to Vets Now's commonly asked pet health questions. 

Head of clinical intelligence at Vets Now, Dave Leicester said: “With many people reluctant or not able to leave their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic, we're making veterinary advice accessible to everyone, through as many channels as possible including our website, video vet service, and now smart speakers. 

"We fast-tracked our plans for the innovative voice skill in response to Covid-19 as we know how much pet owners are relying on remote veterinary advice just now — we’ve seen a huge spike in calls to our emergency contact centre and the uptake of our new video triage consultation service has been exceptional, with more than 500 video calls from worried pet owners since its launch in April. 

"Our new voice skill is the next step in helping pets and their owners as much as we can during this incredibly difficult time. It’s a first release of the skill but we will continue to build and add advice to it in the weeks and months ahead.”

More information on the veterinary advice skill and how to access it can be found here

I've just tried the new skill, and my first impression is that vets don't have to fear this is going to put them out of a job any time soon.

As with all things Alexa, there is a sporting chance she'll mishear what you said. But the bigger problem is that it may be a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

I've had a dog for the last decade, and I could count the number of times I had a question for the vet that could be answered by an app on the fingers of one finger.

In fact, it was the time our dog ate chocolate.

But would I download a voice assistant just to answer the chocolate question?

No, I wouldn't.

Nor would I download a voice assistant to explain veterinary conditions, simply because I don't have questions of that nature more than once a decade. Who does? And if I wanted to know where the nearest emergency vet was, I'd either Google it or I'd ask Alexa herself (as opposed to summoning the Vets Now voice assistant specifically).

The sentiment behind this idea - making advice more accessible - seems sound, but I suspect that unless this assistant becomes truly encyclopaedic, it is never going to be useful enough to warrant installing on a smart speaker. Even then, one has to wonder whether the average pet owner has enough animal-related questions every month to warrant having an assistant to answer them. 

Whilst you're here, take a moment to see our latest job opportunities for vet nurses.