Telemedicine is Coming to the Vets, Part 10: Highlight on FirstVet

male dog owner on couch with dog and laptop
Jan 20, 2021 at 6:24 pm
Carolyn Shadle

This is the tenth in a series of telehealth articles to be published on the VetPartners blog. Each article in the series will feature a different veterinary telemedicine option, providing valuable insight for veterinary professionals, consultants, and pet owners. Communications professional and freelance journalist Carolyn Shadle is not associated with FirstVet or any other telemedicine company. She received no compensation—monetary or otherwise—from VetPartners or FirstVet for authoring this article.


You’ve heard of six degrees of separation. Well, it was only three degrees of separation that brought me to discover a unique telehealth platform. Here’s the story: My webmaster, Timothy Savage, graduated from Cornell University. When he saw a reference to a veterinary service by fellow graduate Gabriel (Gabe) Corredor on a Cornell site, he remembered my connection with the veterinary space and put us together.

When I first contacted Corredor, he had just come onboard to implement a powerful platform called FirstVet in the U.S. Originally developed in Sweden, FirstVet had been made available in seven countries. The idea began 12 years ago, after hearing client questions through a veterinary e-commerce store. Over the years, the questions and answers evolved. Finally, 5 years ago, the FirstVet platform was established to connect licensed veterinarians with those clients who had questions and concerns.

Now, pet owners can engage in a video chat lasting up to 15 minutes, posing clinical questions or questions that relate to behavior, diet, or acute symptoms. All questions are considered important.

Based on the extensive experience in other countries (principally in the U.K. and Sweden), FirstVet-U.S. has been able to roll out a website that can efficiently handle payments and payrolls. Corredor’s connection with the larger international community also provides him with a ton of data, helping the organization continue to meet the needs of veterinarians and pet owners.

Licensed veterinary consultants

In preparation for the U.S. launch, Corredor has been busy interviewing and hiring licensed veterinarians, including Shawna Garner, DVM, who serves as lead veterinarian for the U.S. She has been practicing for 20 years, has practiced in telehealth for 4 years, and will be leading veterinary operations for FirstVet.

FirstVet-U.S. is currently ramping up the hiring of veterinarians. Corredor says his company offers “competitive wages” and a culture of support involving coaching and development, as well as professional consulting related to a particular case. In addition to consulting, some of FirstVet’s veterinarians are involved in other FirstVet projects, such as writing standard operating procedures and other content, or assistance with looking at potential partnerships.

One of the consultants, Deb Welsh, DVM, of Springboro, Ohio, worked as a pediatric registered nurse before graduating from The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and is a mom to four children. She has come to enjoy especially the nurturing side of veterinary medicine, but working in small animal practices, she found that there was never enough time for educating clients. Telehealth enables that, in addition to triaging, advising, and providing comforting words of support. FirstVet is a perfect fit for her as she balances working part time in a small animal hospital, remodeling an old farmhouse, and responding to FirstVet calls.

To illustrate how useful Welsh finds FirstVet, she told me about a client who was concerned about her dog’s back leg. He had been limping for a few days.

“What’s really cool about this video format as opposed to just texting or chatting,” she said, “is that I was actually able to see the dog walking around in the comfort of his own home, without the fear of being at the vet. Sometimes the adrenaline that goes along with that fear masks any signs or symptoms of discomfort or disease. I was able to provide some really sound suggestions and educate the client on when to seek in-person veterinary care, even preparing the client for what that visit may look like and/or what sorts of questions to ask.”

female cat owner using laptop with cat next to her

Pet owners’ access to FirstVet

Pet owners are hearing about FirstVet through the web, especially social media sites. While they cannot access their own vet, as enabled by some platforms, they can get professional advice at any time—day or night. In most places requiring a veterinary-client-patient-relationship (VCPR), the service is one of triage. For some, the advice is a simple at-home remedy. For others, the consultant may recommend seeing a local veterinarian. In emergency cases, when the advice would be to go to the closest ER, the consultant will contact the ER to let them know that the pet owner is coming.   Following the video call, the pet owner receives a copy of the veterinarian’s notes and recommendations. If the pet is referred to a local clinic or ER, FirstVet can send them an email copy of the pet’s records, if needed.

Access to FirstVet provides a great source of relief for pet owners. One such owner is Janine Dambrosio, who lives in the Philadelphia area.

“My dog, Henry, had been licking uncontrollably. It was driving me crazy,” said Dambrosio. “He would lick anything, possibly for hours on end. So, I set up an appointment with FirstVet. The consulting vet gathered information about Henry, asked a lot of questions, and then asked to see in his mouth. She specifically wanted to see his gums. As soon as I lifted his lips it was obvious that his gums were very red. After further investigation, we saw an infected tooth. It looked pretty bad. I felt horrible that I never thought to check in Henry’s mouth. It was suggested that I take Henry to my vet. I did take him, and he needed to have his tooth extracted.”

So, Henry moved on with improved health. And, meanwhile, FirstVet is moving on with additional consultants and features.


VetPartners plans to publish one article of this series per month. The author has featured, or will feature, the following telehealth companies:

Are you a veterinary telemedicine company not listed above? Contact the author for a chance to be included in the series!

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Carolyn C. Shadle, PhD, is the director of Interpersonal Communication Services, Inc., which assists individuals and organizations in improving their interpersonal relations. Those in the veterinary profession know her as the co-author of "Communication Case Studies: Building Interpersonal Skills in the Veterinary Practice," published by the American Animal Hospital Association, and by her presentations at regional and national veterinary conferences. She holds a PhD in organizational and interpersonal communication.

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