coronavirus pandemic

California Loosens Restrictions on Veterinary Telemedicine, but Some Say Changes Don't Go Far Enough

The state of California is allowing veterinarians to use telemedicine more than it ever has, but the move is only temporary, and some say that’s not good enough.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Southern California resident Wayne Kepner was recently on a hike with his 2-year-old rescue dog Kenny when something went wrong. Kenny let out a loud yelp, and Kepner noticed that the ground was covered in big red ants, which he assumed were fire ants that had bitten Kenny. 

“We freaked out, we didn’t really know what to do,” Kepner said. “We were on top of this mountain.”

He believes being able to consult with a vet virtually would have helped the situation.

“It was terrible for all of us to go through that and not have the support of a professional’s advice,” he said.

Pet owners like Kepner, who can’t get to the vet or don’t feel safe going in due to COVID-19, can now meet with their vets without leaving the safety of their homes. Sparked by the pandemic, the state has loosened its restrictions on telemedicine. Many vets, including Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, say it’s about time.

“California is the most restrictive state in the country,” Vogelsang said.

Vets in California have previously been allowed to use telemedicine only when treating pets with ongoing conditions. Under these updated regulations, they can now diagnose new problems. The time frame for extending prescription refills via telemedicine has also been extended from 12 months to 18. 

However, these new rules expire in August. Vogelsang says they need to be permanent.

“I need our veterinary medical board to fall in line and understand that, in their role as a protector of the consumer, this is something that they should be doing," she said.

The Veterinary Medical Board has not budged yet. The Board told the NBC4 I-Team that it will issue extensions to the temporary rules as necessary.

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