Jan 3, 2024 - News

Pets in California now have wider access to telehealth options

Photo of a chihuahua standing on a table as two veterinary workers talk behind it

Veterinary workers provide care for a chihuahua on July 13, 2020 in Los Angeles. Photo: Mario Tama via Getty Images

California law now allows more telehealth options with licensed veterinarians when your pet doesn't require an in-person examination.

Why it matters: Before this bill, which cleared the legislature last year, California had some of the most restrictive regulations in the U.S. on telemedicine for pets, according to the San Francisco SPCA Veterinary Hospital.

  • Pet owners often had to wait for limited appointment slots so vets could perform in-person physical exams even if an animal had only a minor ailment or needed a routine prescription from an already established vet-client relationship.

State of play: The new law states that vets must "employ sound professional judgment to determine whether using telehealth is an appropriate method for delivering medical advice or treatment."

  • They must make clear to pet owners the limits of telehealth and are barred from prescribing controlled substances like the tranquilizer xylazine without an in-person physical exam.

The big picture: The nation's ongoing vet shortage has resulted in "long wait times at clinics, lagging surgeries at shelters, slowing adoption rates, and pet owners being more inclined to put their next visit off," Michelson Found Animals Foundation CEO Brett Yates wrote in an August essay for Veterinary Practice News.

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