Veterinarian K. Jnaneepriya made a wise move when she realised that the operation of clinics were restricted with the onset of Covid-19.
She decided to provide consultations online.
The 29-year-old joined ZumVet, a platform for tele-veterinary services, in April last year and has since found it comfortable to use.
She now treats animals remotely from the confines of her home. A typical consultation lasts 15 minutes.
The vet, who has been in the profession for the past four years, finds the process quicker than the in-person consultation at the clinic.
Through the tele-veterinary service, she can provide medical advice for a range of issues, including those related to skin, ear, mobility, bruises, diarrhoea and constipation.
When required, appropriate medication can also be prescribed and delivered to the client's doorstep.
One problem is the inability to do any physical examination of the animal or employ clinical equipment.
Dr Jnanee, who obtained her Bachelor of Veterinary Science degree from the Massey University in New Zealand in 2016, and her team members overcome that difficulty by asking more detailed questions. "We do detailed history-taking and pattern recognition to make sure our observations are accurate and reliable," she said.
The Animal and Veterinary Service allowed veterinary clinics to provide only emergency and non-elective services during the circuit breaker last year.
Tele-vet services like ZumVet thus came in handy.
"There were clients who could not get an appointment at their preferred vet clinics for several reasons," said Dr Jnanee. "We provided them with teleconsultations and medicines to ease their pet's condition until a visit could be arranged.
"Often, tele-veterinary services can be an effective first-line veterinary provider helping owners decide whether to wait and medicate their pets at home or take them to the veterinarian immediately for help."
Dr Jnanee has often seen animals rushed to the clinic with severe, late-stage health conditions.
"When I started practising telemedicine, I found that many owners are unable to take their pet to the clinic sooner because of other commitments," she said. "Some lovingly try to self-medicate the animal. By the time the pets are taken to the clinic, their condition is much more severe."
Tele-vet services have come as a boon to many pet owners. But some are still sceptic.
"I do not understand how a veterinarian can, through a video call, accurately understand and diagnose my pet dog Benny if he were to have issues," said financial analyst Saraniya Elangovan.
Teacher Devana Pillay said he would be open to the idea if the reviews for tele-vet services are good.
Dr Jnanee made it clear that "telemedicine does not seek to replace in-clinic veterinary medicine".
She said: "Rather, veterinary telemedicine aims to complement in-clinic veterinary medicine. We do let clients know when a video call needs to be followed up with a clinic visit, as some procedures and tests can be done only in the clinic."