In a media release, PetGP said is not designed to replace the vet, who is an essential part of a pet’s health. It said the service was set up for two reasons: to give pet owners peace of mind and expert advice – provided by veterinary nurses, not vets – on what to do next when they are worried about their pet; and; to reduce veterinary costs through avoiding unnecessary trips.
PetGP is part of Vetsdirect Ltd. Vetsdirect last year took more than 100,000 calls from people with pet insurance (the telephone advice service comes free as part of some policies) and said two out of three issues did not require an immediate visit to the vet. According to PetGP, the average cost of a trip to the vet is £300.*
People can subscribe to PetGP for £4.50 per month (you can have unlimited calls for as many pets as you like), or pay a fee of £12.50 per call. The helpline will be open 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week and will be answered by qualified vet nurses.
Managing Director of PetGP Jamie Moodie said: “Over the last 10 years our 24/7/365 triage service, operated by qualified vet nurses who are all Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons registered, has helped hundreds of thousands of insured pets and their owners avoid unnecessary trips to the vet. It has also helped to catch serious issues early and save pets’ lives.”
“We’re delighted to be extending our service to UK pet owners who don’t have an insurance policy, or one that gives them access to our advice line, with what will be a game-changing pet health service. While there will always be circumstances where it’s essential an owner takes their pet to a vet, we are able to provide owners with instant piece of mind over what is the best course of action for their animal and potentially save them money in the process.”
Gudrun Ravetz, British Veterinary Association President, told Pet News Today: “Tools for educating pet owners about their animal’s health are welcome. However, although triage phone lines have been used in the NHS for several years, for pets these can be more problematic as animals are unable to speak themselves and many of their symptoms may be subtle signs that will only be picked up in an examination carried out by a vet.
“We also dispute the figures given by Pet GP that an average trip to the vet costs £300, which could have a serious impact on a pet’s health and welfare if owners believe taking their pet to their local vet will cost that much every time.
“We would always recommend owners take their pets to the vet not only when unwell, but also for regular preventive healthcare check-ups to ensure their animal is happy and healthy. ”
Pet News Today’s view: “Veterinary practices already offer 24-hour emergency telephone assistance for people whose pets are registered with them and some practices staff this line themselves, so they have access to your pet’s full clinical history.
“For continuity of care – which is the best thing for you and your pet – in our opinion, the best thing is to call your local veterinary practice, regardless of time of day or evening, if you are worried about your pet, and they will advise you further.
“PetGP also states on its website that, ‘If you’ve already seen a qualified vet about a particular issue, we’re only able to give you a second opinion.’ It doesn’t seem prudent to seek a second opinion from a vet nurse over the telephone when your pet has already seen your vet. And would the vet nurse go against a diagnosis or advice given by a vet who has seen your pet in person?”
*The £300 average trip to the vet cost quoted by PetGP was taken from an article that appeared on MoneySupermarket.com, but it does not cite the research where the figure comes from.