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Vet Squad
Photo: skawee – 123RF

The free online Vet Squad advice service isn’t just a boon to pet parents, helping them save money on vet visits and pet products; joining the telehealth squad offers veterinarians an appealing alternative to clinical work. By Phil Tucak

Supporting and educating Australian pet owners is the core mission of the Vet Squad, online pet supplies retailer Pet Circle’s dedicated team of over 30 veterinarians, who provide a free online veterinary and pet care advice service to pet owners including emergency triage.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying workforce challenges impacting the veterinary landscape in Australia, the Pet Circle Vet Squad ramped up to provide their services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with the option for pet owners to also schedule longer video telehealth sessions.

Pet Circle’s head veterinarian Dr Teagan Lever leads the Vet Squad, a role which she undertakes remotely and enjoys immensely, having made the switch from working in mixed-animal and small-animal veterinary practice several years ago.

“I was seeking a better work-life balance, and I began to look for alternative options to clinical work and came across the position of in-house veterinarian at Pet Circle. I was already a very happy Pet Circle customer, and I loved the idea of using my skills and knowledge in a different setting, so I jumped at the opportunity,” says Dr Lever.

“No two days are the same, and one of the things I love about being a vet at Pet Circle is the variety of ways I am able to support and educate pet parents, whether it is through direct contact or through written content in our regular weekly vet emails and veterinary advice articles.”

The Vet Squad provide advice on pet products, health, nutrition, lifestyle and behaviour. The team of veterinarians only provide general advice as they’re unable to examine the pets in-person, but they often help pet parents decide whether their concerns warrant a trip to their local veterinarian.

“We offer general advice to pet parents through three different methods. We have our Vet Pet Plan service where customers can tell us about their pet, and over email we provide a health, nutrition and lifestyle plan personalised to their pet’s unique needs, including recommendations for food, flea and worming products and any other relevant products,” says Dr Lever.

“We also have vets available on live chat on the Pet Circle website 24 hours a day, and we also offer free video or phone tele-advice appointments. On an average day we respond to hundreds of enquiries across the three services. The response from pet parents is overwhelmingly positive, with many surprised and delighted to be able to get advice from a veterinarian for free in a convenient way.”

Each of the veterinarians working in the Vet Squad boast a different set of veterinary interests and clinical backgrounds. Another member of the team, veterinarian Dr Emilee Lay, has a passion for exotic pets.

No two days are the same, and one of the things I love about being a vet at Pet Circle is the variety of ways I am able to support and educate pet parents, whether it is through direct contact or through written content in our regular weekly vet emails and veterinary advice articles.

Dr Teagan Lever, Vet Squad leader, Pet Circle

“With the onset of the pandemic, the opportunity to work from home seemed particularly appealing, as well as the excitement of improving and developing the exotic medicine, information and retail aspects of Pet Circle,” says Dr Lay.

“I also enjoy being able to flex different parts of my brain— both creative and analytical—while still having an impact on helping owners provide the best care for their animals. I really enjoy writing content especially for the exotics department, and helping vet new products for the exotic pet products range.”

Perks of the job—apart from working at home—include being able to knock off on time, having regular breaks and experiencing far fewer negative client interactions. There’s also the support and collegiality of being part of a diverse group of veterinarians who are all keen to help the pet owners they interact with online.

“We often share funny anecdotes, cute pet photos and positive customer feedback with each other—we are super supportive, and it is a team environment that lifts each member up,” enthuses Dr Lay.

Just like vets working everywhere, the Vet Squad team give advice on everything from grieving the loss of pet to the uncertainty associated with taking on a new pet.

“I had a customer who reached out to our online live vet chat service to talk about the sudden passing of their Chow Chow. It was more a chat about grief, and how to process it. The kind of chats that in clinic, sometimes aren’t possible with the time constraints or the emotional shock of it all,” explains Dr Lay.

“And one of my favourite phone calls was with a customer who had questions about how and what to feed her puppy. She lived alone, in an isolated rural area and it was great to talk about the highs and lows of puppy ownership, as well as walking her through her queries. At the end I sent her a detailed plan of how to go about caring for her new addition. I think as much as she welcomed the information, she most of all enjoyed the company and the interaction,” says Dr Lay.

For the veterinarians involved in the Vet Squad, these types of experiences and knowing they’re making a difference to pet owners is what brings job satisfaction. 

“Pet humanisation and premiumisation during the pandemic has led to more vet telehealth services popping up, but what makes our vet service different is that you don’t need to be a member or a customer to use it and it’s completely free,” Pet Circle’s chief executive officer Mike Frizell says. “We’ve done this as we want to democratise quality, pet-first vet advice and create the best pet experience in the world.”

Visit Pet Circle’s Vet Squad at petcircle.com.au/discover 

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