Telemedicine Is Coming to the Vets, Part 11: Highlight on WhiskerDocs

cat looking at laptop screen
Feb 26, 2021 at 3:39 pm
Carolyn Shadle

This is the eleventh in a series of telehealth articles to be published on the VetPartners blog. Each article in the series features 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 whiskerDocs or any other telemedicine company. She received no compensation—monetary or otherwise—from VetPartners or whiskerDocs for authoring this article.


In recognition of the stress many pet owners have experienced due to COVID-19, whiskerDocs and Crum & Forster Pet Insurance Group™  teamed up in 2020 to provide telehealth veterinary support at no cost to pet owners in New York State during the COVID-19 emergency—especially beneficial when the pet owner’s veterinarian was not always available.

This was one of the latest partnerships for whiskerDocs. Since 2015, it has been continually expanding its client base and virtual services that have enabled pet owners to access qualified veterinary expertise. The whiskerDocs team provides instant access via multiple channels, including phone chats and emails, 24 hours a day. The team triages pets experiencing medical problems and advises owners on the appropriate action to take.

Addressing the need for telehealth in veterinary medicine

CEO Deb Leon points out that pet owners often spend unnecessary time and money on ER visits and other interventions, when a phone or video conference would triage the problem and direct the pet parent to the appropriate resource. She says that research shows that as much as 79% of ER visits on the human side are not necessary. On the pet side, the whiskerDocs data shows that when pet owners feel the ER is their only option, about 78% could actually choose a lower-cost action. In both cases, patients are frequently advised to go to their primary care provider or even address their concerns at home, instead.

Ironically, this does not result in fewer visits (or less revenue) for the veterinarian. In fact, research has shown that using teletriage results in 30% more veterinary clinic visits (and increased revenue) as clients find that they are channeled to the appropriate level of care and have easy, cost-effective access to on-demand veterinary advice.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of veterinary practices have realized that telehealth is an essential means of engaging and serving their clients. WhiskerDocs has experienced a 250% growth in revenue, and has needed to triple their staff to accommodate the demand.

This largest provider of veterinary telehealth services in North America, whiskerDocs was envisioned by Leon when she was CEO of Health Contact Partners, a telehealth provider in the human health sector. In 2015, with the help of cofounder Trevor Page, whiskerDocs emerged. Since then, the company has helped over 5 million customers, handling more than 160,000 interactions in real-time with a connection time of less than 60 seconds on average.

female doctor on telemedicine call with computer

Partnering with industry organizations

Over the six years that whiskerDocs has been in operation, it has partnered with a growing number of industry companies. PetIQ, for example, provides whiskerDocs’ telehealth services to nearly two million companion animals. And the pet sitters at feel secure in having whiskerDocs available when situations arise with a pet in their care.

Of the many organizations that partner with whiskerDocs, each offers service in a different way. For example, GoFetch uses whiskerDocs to serve its clients after hours. Pet pharmacies and insurance brands, including Pets Best and Crum and Forster, find partnering with whiskerDocs enables them to provide services as a value-add for their customers.

WhiskerDocs has proved to be such a savings for pet owners that employers are now offering paid memberships in the whiskerDocs unlimited program to their employees. WhiskerDocs will direct the client to the nearest veterinary clinic, when appropriate, and can send a report to the primary veterinarian when it has taken a call for one of their clients.

Patented veterinary telemedicine technology

Leon is clearly a leader in the field. She has been aggressive in acquiring system patents, including a patent that covers the complex scoring algorithms and delivery of pet telehealth protocols necessary to provide pet owners the neutral, unbiased support they need. When a pet owner interacts with whiskerDocs, the patented algorithms are scoring and weighting each data point, directing next queries, and ultimately delivering specific action steps on behalf of the pet. By utilizing this patented technology, the whiskerDocs team is able to personalize advice and offer appropriate information.

It should not surprise you that Leon was one of the founders of the Veterinary Virtual Care Association (VVCA) and currently serves on its Advisory Board. This organization is the go-to place to learn about veterinary telemedicine options. Leon was keen on gathering data and setting standards for veterinary telehealth, so she joined the efforts to bring this much-needed organization to the forefront of pet health in the U.S.


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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