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- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
This article was produced in partnership with Pawp.
“Is that normal?” It’s the question that every pet parent asks at one time or another (or maybe, if you’re like us, a lot of times). How much scratching is too much? Should she be drooling like that? Is his poop supposed to be that color? And the inevitable follow-up: should you haul your protesting critter to the vet to find out?
Those doubts are one of the toughest parts of being a pet parent—but new telehealth service Pawp is making things a little easier.
How Does Pawp Work?
Pawp is a telehealth service for pets that started in 2019, and it’s doing its best to fill the holes in the overtaxed veterinary industry by providing virtual support to pet parents around the clock—which means answers to all your pet questions, whenever you need them.
For $24 per month, Pawp offers access to unlimited chats with their licensed veterinary professionals: a collection of veterinarians and veterinary technicians, all of whom are required to have at least five years of experience in veterinary clinics.
You can ask them just about anything you’d ask your vet, using either the chat feature or the video option (especially handy if you’d like to show a veterinary expert your pup’s eye goo or your cat’s funky hairball). Behavioral questions are fair game too, which means you can get advice about how to tackle concerns like excessive barking or destructive chewing.
Because consults are virtual, Pawp’s experts can’t prescribe medicine, but they can offer advice and help you know the difference between a problem that requires treatment and one that’s likely to go away on its own.
They’re also there for teletriage—those critical times when you need to know if you’d better take your pet to the vet ASAP, and what you can be doing to help your friend until you get there. If a Pawp vet determines your pet’s problem is immediately life-threatening, they can release a $3,000 emergency fund to pay for your pet’s treatment once per year.
What We Like About Pawp
Pawp’s appearance on the market is both much-needed and timely. The veterinary workforce crisis has led to overbooked and understaffed clinics—which means scheduling any kind of veterinary appointment less than a month out can be difficult.
Pawp vets, however, are usually available to chat within minutes. That came in handy for me a couple months ago when I was on the fence about my dog’s frequent nighttime vomiting. I knew it was a problem that needed treatment, but I wasn’t sure how urgent it was—could I wait the two weeks it would take to see my dog’s regular vet, or should I make a several-hour drive to a clinic that could see him that weekend?
Pawp asked some good questions via chat and helped me determine that my pup, Oscar, was probably experiencing a form of acid reflux, which meant that as long as nothing changed, I could experiment with a more frequent feeding schedule at home for a few weeks and wait to see my trusted healthcare provider.
The Pawp vet also offered advice about Oscar’s separation anxiety, which kicks in whenever he’s on his own in the apartment. She pointed out that there’s probably a root cause that needs investigating—a lack of confidence that a trainer or behaviorist could help the little guy build up.
Other Rover editors had similar experiences when they tried out Pawp. Gwen’s 14-and-a-half-year-old tabby, Matilda, was prescribed cosequin and gabapentin by her regular vet to strengthen her joints and help with arthritis. Gwen started her on cosequin but felt like her kitty was only getting stiffer and more irritable.
A Pawp veterinary expert explained that Matilda’s increased irritability was likely a pain response: “Cosequin is excellent for joint health, but it sure doesn’t do a thing for pain.” She offered reassurance about gabapentin—”Pain medication (safe for old cats and their kidneys) can bring about a whole new upgraded quality of life for cats”—and went on to say that her very own 13-year-old cat takes both cosequin and gabapentin.
About the exchange, Gwen said, “I have been trying to be very deliberate about how I can help Matilda manage her stiffness and ‘grow old gracefully,’ and I haven’t wanted to give her anything she actually doesn’t need (which is super hard to tell with cats)! It’s hard as a pet parent to watch your pet age and think that they might be in pain—I perhaps haven’t wanted to admit this is happening to Matilda. She will always be a beautiful, blissful cat in my eyes—I guess I just needed a professional to help me readjust my focus.”
But it was once again little Oscar who put the service through its toughest test when he made a series of acrobatic leaps to steal chocolate last month. A Pawp vet took my call in seconds and helped me assess the situation. She was ready to authorize the emergency fund and have me rush to the vet when I clarified that he’d eaten about 15 “grams,” not 15 “ounces.”
She breathed a sigh of relief and said all was well—no sprint to the vet was required. She then offered great instructions about what to watch for in the next 24 hours and gave me a list of symptoms to keep tabs on. Her advice saved me a very scary vet trip and offered peace of mind as we monitored Oscar. Plus, it was nice to know that if we’d had to go to an emergency clinic, $3,000 of any treatment he received would have been covered on the spot by Pawp.
Oscar weathered the incident with sangfroid and not so much as a hiccough.
Our Recommendation: Two Paws Up for Pawp
Before you sign up, it’s important to know what Pawp isn’t. First, it’s not a substitute for your pet’s regular vet. Your dog or cat is always going to need a hands-on medical professional nearby, both for annual checkups and questions that can only be answered by lab tests and physical exams. Plus they’ll need to go to their regular vet for any prescriptions.
But Pawp can be a valuable supplement and a source of good advice. Pawp’s experts can help you know the difference between minor and major ailments, or figure out when it’s best to take a wait-and-see approach and when you need to seek immediate treatment.
The emergency fund, too, is very helpful—but it’s good to know its limits so you can use it effectively. It isn’t the same as pet insurance; it can’t, for example, pay for planned surgeries or procedures, like pet insurance can, and it can only be used once per year.
Nor can it be dispensed retroactively—so if you’re already at the vet and checking your pet in, it’s too late to call on Pawp. Its release can only be authorized by a Pawp veterinary expert, who will examine your pet via video call to determine whether your pet’s life would be in jeopardy without immediate veterinary assistance. Once the fund is released, Pawp will pay your vet directly, leaving you free to focus on the furry friend who needs you.
Pawp is a valuable supplement to both a vet and insurance, particularly when vet availability is scarce. We think it’s an especially good deal for new pet parents, who might have a lot of questions about the odd things their friend does. It’s also nice for those with special cases on their hands—you know, the adventurous pups and kitties with big, brave hearts and rare talents for trouble. (Looking at you, Oscar.)Check Out Pawp
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