While every dog needs routine care from a traditional vet, there are times when an online visit is necessary, such as during vacation or when your vet’s office is closed.
Online vet visits are convenient and stress-free for canines, making them an excellent option for dogs who get anxious at the vet or those struggling with things like car sickness. Best of all, some offer prescription services for grabbing the medications your pup might need.
Below, we’ll share a few of our favorite online vets offering prescription services and discuss when and when not a virtual vet visit is appropriate.
Places to Get an Online Vet Prescription: Quick Picks
- #1 Vetster [Best Overall]: Boasting a sleek, simple interface, this platform connects you to local vets and offers virtual visits without requiring you to sign up for a subscription.
- #2 Dutch [Best Option for Multi-Dog Families]: Get unlimited video vet chats and free shipping on prescriptions (where applicable) for up to five pets with a low monthly or annual fee.
- #3 HelloRalphie [Most Affordable]: Save your doggy dollars for treats with this budget-pleasing vet prescription provider, who offers cash-saving bundles and more.
5 Places to Get an Online Vet Prescription
There are heaps of options to choose from for everything from vet chats to appointments, but here are our top picks for online vet visits and prescription services. Each offers quality online care, including video visits for checking over your four-footer.
A service linking pet parents to 24/7 virtual veterinary care with an in-state provider.
About: Vetster makes nabbing a virtual vet visit a breeze with its easy-to-use interface offering 24/7 coverage. There’s also an option for selecting between the English, French, and Spanish languages, potentially removing barriers that may inhibit your canine’s care.
- Allows users to pick between in-state vets
- Costs vary from vet to vet but are clearly labeled
- Ability to prescribe medications marked on each vet’s profile, eliminating the mystery
- Customer reviews provided on each vet
- Pup parents give the service’s ease of use a thumb’s up
- Excellent availability with 24/7 video chat appointments
- Freedom to choose your own vet is always nifty
- Appointment pricing can vary significantly from vet to vet
- Vet choices can be limited, depending on your state
A subscription service featuring virtual visits for up to 5 pets per membership.
About: Dutch provides unlimited video chats with vets and free shipping on all prescriptions for a monthly or annual fee. They can provide prescriptions online in many locations by setting up a virtual visit with a vet based in your state.
- Plans start around $25 monthly (annual cost-saving options also available)
- Multiple video chat formats for addressing everything from allergies to anxiety
- Prescription service available in 29 states
- Up to 5 pets covered per membership
- Multi-pet membership saves serious money in multi-pet households
- Free medication shipping saves money
- Unlimited vet chats are a plus
- Not everyone wants to enroll in a subscription
- Doesn’t accept pet insurance
A virtual version of Banfield’s retail business, including video visits and chats.
About: Banfield offers the best of both worlds, giving you access to an in-person vet for everyday care and virtual visits when you can’t make it to the office. An Optimum Wellness Plan is required for virtual visits, however, and that can be a tad pricey.
- Access Virtual Visits with your local Banfield team
- Vet Chat™ allows you to upload a video of your pet and have a vet review it and provide feedback
- Wellness plans cost approximately $40 to $70 for a medium sized dog
- Pet wellness coaching available, covering everything from nutrition to behavior
- Unlimited in-person visits and vet chat sessions available
- Lets you have virtual visits with your local Banfield vets
- Optimum Wellness Plans come with a ton of perks, saving you some serious canine coin
- Requires an Optimum Wellness Plan
- Limited to 2 virtual visits a year
- Banfield has famously mixed reviews; some owners love them while others report problems
4. Hello Ralphie
A budget-friendly veterinary provider offering virtual vet appointments for $35.
About: Hello Ralphie is a budget-friendly service offering virtual vet visits for dogs, cats, exotics, and more. Schedule right on their site or through their easy-to-use app.
- Single appointments ($35) and money-saving bundled appointments available
- Pick between advice only or advice plus prescription appointments (where applicable)
- Some pet insurance companies offer reimbursement for Hello Ralphie telemedicine appointments
- Option to gift appointments to fur parent friends
- Affordably priced, particularly if you opt for bundle options
- Owners praise the high quality of service
- Super easy to set up an appointment
- Great choice for multi-species households
- You must make an account to view pricing
- Bundles expire after one year
An online service offering 24/7 access to vets with the purchase of a subscription.
About: FirstVet offers unlimited virtual vet visits 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with their subscription-based service. Choose between 6-month and 12-month options at $65 and $90, respectively.
- Video visits always led by a licensed veterinarian
- Prescriptions available in select states (NJ and NY)
- App-based provider with a simple interface
- Offers virtual checkups
- Affordably priced considering the unlimited nature of the service
- Pet parents praise the app’s user-friendly setup
- Access care quickly
- Prescription service limited to NJ and NY (as of June 2022)
- Requires a subscription
What Kinds of Health Problems Can Online Vets Treat?
Virtual visits can address many of the same canine concerns as a traditional visit but not all. They’re best for non-emergency, run-of-the-mill canine conundrums.
Virtual visits generally cover:
- Mild stomach upset (diarrhea or vomiting)
- Allergies (Non-life-threatening)
- Ear infections
- Flea and tick prevention
- Motion sickness
- Mild eye issues
A virtual veterinary visit can’t help:
- Serious injuries
- Severe bouts of vomiting or diarrhea
In these cases, a traditional in-person exam with a vet is required. If you’re unsure which option is best for your dog’s condition, call your vet or ask the online provider before booking a virtual appointment. Some offer 24/7 chat support.
The right vet visit for the concern also varies by your dog’s overall health, as puppies, seniors, and dogs with underlying conditions may need a more thorough exam than a virtual appointment offers.
What to Expect from Your Online Vet Appointment
A virtual visit with a vet follows a similar course as an in-person session along with a few tweaks for the remote setting. Among other things, this means you’ll need to:
Complete a Questionnaire
You’ll fill out a pre-appointment form noting your dog’s basic information, including his age, weight, health history, and comments pertaining to the appointment. The format varies by provider, with some being more detailed than others, but they typically cover the same core areas.
Answer the Call
Every provider handles the process their own way, but generally, you’ll receive a video call at a set time where you’ll meet your vet virtually, just like the Zoom calls we’ve all become too accustomed to. For that reason, you’ll want to be in a well-lit, quiet environment with your dog where you can focus on the call.
During the video call, you’ll discuss any symptoms or concerns about your pup. If there’s a physical symptom such as a rash or ear issue, you may show the area of concern to the vet, doing your best to get a close-up view. Keeping your canine leashed is a good idea, as it prevents him from running off mid-call.
Your vet will ask questions to understand the issue better and lead to a proper diagnosis. They may ask for additional views of the problem area if it’s a skin ailment or ask about any other symptoms your dog might be experiencing. Through this careful questioning and examination, the vet can develop the best treatment plan for your dog.
You’ll always have a chance to ask questions, so go for it! Don’t shy away from requesting clarification if you’re unsure of something. Be sure to ask when a follow-up with your in-person vet is needed. If a medication is recommended, ask about its administration instructions, including if it can be given around the same time as your dog’s existing meds, if applicable.
Follow Through With a Care Plan
After the call, it’s time to tackle the treatment plan and help your dog feel his best. This might mean administering the medication the provider ships to you or following up with an in-person vet. Some online veterinary services check in a day or two after the appointment to see how your sniffer is doing, either via call or email.
As you can see, it’s a straightforward, no-frills process. You’ll still need to keep up on routine in-person dog doctor visits, so don’t swap virtual checkups for traditional ones entirely. If the issue doesn’t improve or worsens, promptly head in for an in-person exam.
Which States Allow Online Vet Prescriptions
Laws vary from state to state, but the following states offer some form of online veterinary prescriptions:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
- Washington DC
However, not every online vet service covers all of these states, so always double-check before booking an appointment.
So, why are online vet prescriptions restricted?
It stems from the need for a vet to establish a veterinarian-client-patient relationship or VCPR, meaning a vet is familiar enough with your dog to diagnose and treat any ailments that may arise. The VCPR includes a documented history of visits (health records) for your pup, painting an overall picture of your dog’s health and allowing for the best possible care.
Some states allow the VCPR to be established by a virtual vet accessing your primary’s vet’s records for your dog, but that’s not always the case.
Online Vet Prescription FAQ
Online vet prescriptions are relatively new, so understandably, you may have a few questions. Let’s tackle some together.
Is a Virtual Visit as Good as an In-Person Visit?
Yes and no. A virtual visit doesn’t allow for the same hands-on exam of your dog as an in-person visit, so concerns your vet might spot while checking out your pooch up close and personal can be missed.
You can also run into technical issues, such as poor picture quality. Obviously, you don’t have access to diagnostics like blood work, X-rays, or skin scrapes at home, either.
That said, a virtual visit is great for addressing minor concerns that don’t need a nose-to-tail scan or diagnostic testing. Virtual vet visits also allow your vet to see your dog relaxed in a home atmosphere which can aid in the exam.
As for your dog, he may enjoy the virtual exam more, too, particularly if he has a hard time getting around or gets antsy when visiting brick-and-mortar vet offices.
How Much Does a Vet Video Visit Cost?
Costs can vary significantly for virtual vet visits (just as the costs for regular vet visits do), particularly between subscription-based and on-demand providers, but you can expect them to be less expensive than in-person visits. As a base measure, expect to pay at least $50 for the appointment.
Other incurred costs might include medications and shipping for said medications. As with any provider, always read the fine print to avoid surprise fees.
Can I Get Pet Prescriptions Online?
Maybe. Some states allow for veterinary telemedicine, meaning a vet can prescribe medications online, while others ban the practice. There are specific rules surrounding it as well, such as requiring the prescribing vet to be based in your state.
How Do I Know if My Pet Needs to See a Vet?
Any unexplained changes in your dog – whether he’s itching more, moving stiffly, or pawing at his ears – warrant a vet visit.
Some of these common concerns can be addressed via virtual visits, saving you time and money. Virtual visits are also ideal for mobility-challenged or anxious dogs who may find extra vet visits beyond checkups stressful.
A vet must see your dog in person if he’s exhibiting severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, obvious signs of pain (things like whining, tenderness upon touch, or a hunched posture), or panting without exercise. Emergencies like injuries should always be treated with in-person care as well, such as open wounds or fractures.
If you’re unsure of a change or potential symptom in your dog, give your vet a call. You know your best fur friend best.
Have you received a prescription for your pooch from an online vet? Was it from someone on our list or another provider? What about a virtual vet visit? Let us know in the comments.