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Like many things, veterinary care has gone online in a big way. Dozens of telemedicine-based, online-only vet care providers have sprung up over the past few years, most of them offering 24/7 access and the ability to chat or set up a video appointment with a veterinary professional.
While an online telehealth session is still no substitute for a face-to-face appointment with your vet, these services are a great way to get fast answers to questions about your pet’s diet, behavioral issues, and other health concerns—especially if you’re not sure whether or not to take your furry friend in for a physical exam. Wondering where to begin? Check out our picks for the best online vets below.
Best Overall: Vetster
Why We Chose It: Vetster uses a marketplace-based approach to virtually connect you with vet care professionals in your area.
Ability to choose between vets and vet techs
Emphasis on finding medical professionals near you
Profiles and review systems add confidence
No mobile app
Vetster’s approach to telehealth may remind some people of Rover, the enormously popular app for finding pet sitters. The site allows users to search for veterinary professionals in your area and make telehealth appointments with the push of a button. Unlike most other online vet services, Vetster lets you choose from vet techs as well as veterinary doctors, giving you more control over pricing depending on the urgency or need for the appointment.
Vetster’s interface is easy to use, and it’s usually possible to make an appointment for the same day. We also love that users on the medical professional side fill out profile details listing their professional designations, key areas of interest, and whether they can consult on certain issues. While the site has yet to make the transition to a mobile app, it’s our pick for the best overall online vet service.
Best With Brick and Mortar: Banfield Vet Chat
Why We Chose It: Banfield Pet Hospital is an established veterinary care provider with over 1,000 locations across the country.
24/7 vet access
Continuity between in-person and digital experiences
Must enroll in wellness plan
With locations in nearly every state, Banfield Pet Hospital is one of the nation’s most popular vet care providers. If your furry friend is already a patient at one of its brick-and-mortar locations, you can complement their in-person care with the Vet Chat feature on the Banfield app. This tool provides around-the-clock access to a real vet, simplifying the question of whether or not to rush to urgent care after your dog gloms a bag of cheese puffs.
Vet Chat is easy to use, with a text-based interface that’s also accessible on the Banfield website. The ability to use the same service for online advice and real-world visits is also a major plus, creating consistency for your pet’s care plan. The only real drawback is that even if you’re already a Banfield patient, you must enroll in the company’s Optimum Wellness Plan in order to use the Vet Chat service. Visit Banfield's website for an estimated pricing calculator; monthly costs vary based on your pet’s species, age, location, and whether they are spayed or neutered.
Best Affordable: PetCoach
Why We Chose It: PetCoach is a great resource with a huge amount of free content around veterinary health as well as an easy-to-use “Ask a Vet” feature.
More affordable than other telehealth services
Often publishes questions asked by users (with responses from vets)
Available as an app
Some services are buried in the site
Content pages not organized by pet type
Traditional vet care can be pricey, and telehealth services for your pet can often be as well. For a more affordable option, check out PetCoach, an online and app-based provider that lets users submit questions to a vet whenever they like, or arrange for a private telehealth appointment. Submitting a single question costs $5 (the response time is typically around two hours), while private consultations are $20.
We love that PetCoach publishes a vast amount of content around a variety of veterinary care topics, including many of the questions and responses submitted by the app’s users. If there’s one drawback, it’s that the site can be difficult to navigate, with few filters to separate content by pet type or condition (and tracking down vet profiles to set up consultations is also surprisingly tricky). However, the app is well designed and generally easier to use.
Best for Prescriptions: Hello Ralphie
Why We Chose It: Hello Ralphie is a great, app-based platform for veterinary telehealth that also has an extensive online prescription service.
Ability to make an appointment for prescription or just advice
Saves vet chats and records for added continuity
Can fill prescriptions through the same service
Must read the fine print for prescription appointments
It’s no secret that services like 1-800-PetMeds are a great way of fulfilling your pet’s prescriptions online. Hello Ralphie combines the convenience of an online vet pharmacy with telemedicine, making it easy to pair your next remote visit with a medication order. A prescription appointment costs $55, and the service also gives you an option to make an appointment in order to get advice only ($35).
Appointments can be scheduled online or through the Hello Ralphie app, and your conversation and medical records will be stored for future reference. One thing to be aware of is that the service draws a distinction between the terms “telehealth” and “telemedicine,” and only appointments falling under the latter category can include a prescription or diagnosis. Bear in mind also that not every state allows vets to perform telemedicine, so do your research before scheduling an appointment.
Best Subscription: Whisker Docs
Why We Chose It: Whisker Docs offers a convenient monthly subscription so you can have access to vet professionals anytime you need it.
Offers a subscription service if you frequently need vet care
Options for single visits without a subscription
24/7 access to a vet
No ability to get a prescription
If you find yourself constantly coming up with questions for your vet, a subscription-based service like Whisker Docs may be a great option. This web-based veterinary service connects you to a vet or a vet tech via email, phone, or chat and is available 24/7. Their team can answer questions and give guidance about your pet’s health, but they cannot prescribe medicine.
Whisker Docs has options for both subscriptions and one-time visits. Subscription plans run as little as $16.99 per month while a single phone call costs $39.99. Plans are based on a single pet, but you can add additional pets for a discount. If your question is not urgent, you can opt for an email response for $4.99, but it will take about four hours to hear back. Whisker Docs is a great choice for anyone who wants 24/7 access to a vet for a single price.
While an online vet appointment should not be considered a substitute for an in-person visit, it can be a great way to get answers quickly or determine whether or not you need to rush to the vet’s office. The best online veterinarians offer 24/7 access to certified medical professionals, whether through text-based chats, video visits, or a question-answer submission system.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Does a Vet Video Visit Cost?
Online technology has made it much easier to access a vet anytime you need it. Chatting with a veterinarian online or by video can help answer pressing questions and determine whether you need to take your pet to your local vet.
Prices for online visits range based on the service, but expect to pay between $30 and $60 for a visit. Some services offer subscriptions so you can pay a single monthly or yearly fee for unlimited access to a professional.
Can I Get Pet Prescriptions Online?
Some online vets do offer prescriptions, but not all states allow them so it is important to research your state's regulations
If you visit an in-person vet, you can often ask them to send a prescription to an online pet pharmacy such as Chewy.com or 1-800-Pet-Meds to have it filled and delivered to your door. This can sometimes be cheaper than buying directly through your local veterinarian’s office.
How Do I Know if My Pet Needs to See a Vet?
Any change in your pet’s behavior should be evaluated. If your pet is sleeping more than normal, not eating, or acting unusual, it’s important to get them the right care. You know your pet best, so if you recognize something is off, you should call your vet.
Sometimes, minor concerns can be addressed via an online veterinarian, but emergencies should always be dealt with in-person.
How We Chose the Best Online Veterinarians
It can be difficult to determine what distinguishes one online veterinarian service from another, and some have websites that are low on key information (or seem more interested in pushing dog treats or other extras). We chose online vets who simplified the process of finding and connecting with a qualified medical professional, with the highest marks going to services that had a great user experience.