April 13, 2018

First Video-Based Canadian Veterinary Telehealth Company Launched

Canada’s first and only telemedicine service to offer on-demand video consultations with veterinarians launched earlier this month.
By Amanda Carrozza
Telemedicine Regardlesss of whether you’ve participated in a telehealth consultation or offer some form of the service in your practice, the concept is probably not foreign to you. In fact, many view telemedicine as the natural evolution of health care in the digital world. And why not? If you can transfer money to friends or initiate the sale of a car electronically, looking for basic medical care on your smartphone doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

Just as telemedicine continues to increase in popularity in the United States, the same can be said for our neighbors to the north. Although not considered routine in Canada, a growing number of Canadian companies offer human telehealth services that range from counseling and wellness coaching to emergency medical advice. The Saskatchewan government, for example, offers the program HealthLine, which operates as a 24-hour health information and support telephone network staffed by trained nurses and social workers. 

As people become more accustomed to receiving virtual medical advice for themselves, they want the same convenience for their pets. In the United States, veterinary telehealth companies — think whiskerDocs and Petzam — have been popping up with relative frequency. Last week, Canada’s first and only telemedicine service to offer on-demand video consultations with veterinarians launched. The company, Healthy Pets, also announced that it received $500,000 CAD in seed funding from District Ventures Capital, a venture capital fund led by Arlene Dickinson. Dickinson is a high-profile Canadian businesswoman, investor and television personality who appears on “Dragons’ Den” (the Canadian version of “Shark Tank”).

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It was on “Dragon’s Den” that Dickinson met Healthy Pets CEO Emma Harris, who appeared on an episode that aired March 29. By the episode’s conclusion, Harris had accepted an offer from Dickinson of $125,000 that was later settled at $500,000. In addition to the investment, Dickinson will serve as a Healthy Pets board member.

“Healthy Pets’ innovative approach to pet care and the growing pet services industry in Canada made it an ideal business for my fund … to invest in and partner with. We are very much looking forward to seeing the growth of this business and to working closely with Emma," Dickinson said.

Healthy Pets will use the funding to scale its operations and expand its network of veterinarians. Pet owners can register online by creating a profile for themselves and their pets. From there, they can schedule an appointment with a registered veterinarian from within the platform. Subscription plans range from a single 15-minute session to a monthly subscription.

“Healthy Pets is a valuable tool to reach patients in a new way,” Sarah Hansford, DVM, medical director for Healthy Pets, said. “The platform allows vets to expand their practice and implement a flexible working schedule outside of regular clinic hours.”

Veterinarians who wish to partner with Health Pets pay $50 per month to offer their services and earn $20 per consultation. Through the video consultations, veterinarians can assess clinical signs to determine whether pet parents should monitor the situation or visit a brick and mortar practice.

This model is similar to how veterinary telemedicine companies operate in the United States. In both countries, telemedicine companies may not diagnose or prescribe, but they can educate and alert customers when they should take their pets directly to a hospital.

“Our team of veterinarians and technicians is essentially acting in the same manner as 24/7 nurse lines do,” Deb Leon, founder and CEO of whiskerDocs told Veterinarians Money Digest® in June 2017. “We help establish trust in the veterinary profession by guiding pet owners toward appropriate intervention levels. It’s not a clinical assessment as much as resource management.”

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