Vet says he’s enjoying being at the forefront of online revolution

Vet Dave Hollinshead carefully observed Dachshund Bruce while listening to his owner describe the dog’s latest misadventures.

The hungry hound, it turned out, was the victim of his newfound ability to open up a pedal bin.

He’d had a good old scavenge through the contents – and wolfed down half of a sanitary towel.

Although he’s done many thousands of consultations, this one was just a little bit different for Dave, senior vet at Vets Now’s busy Sheffield clinic.

Bruce wasn’t on an examination table in front of him, but miles away at home and Dave was looking at images from the owner’s mobile phone.

It was just one of the many calls that have flooded in over recent months to Vets Now’s innovative video vet service.

Image of senior vet Dave Hollinshead for Vets Now article on online vets
Senior vet Dave gives advice to worried pet owners via video chat through our Video Vet service

“The owners had contacted their own vets in the morning, but they needed further advice,” explained Dave, 36.

“They wanted to know if nature would take its course or whether there was anything else they could do. I could see that Bruce looked absolutely fine, so they just needed to talk things through and make sure they knew what to look out for and if there may be any complications.

“That conversation was really helpful for them.”

Vets Now launched video vet just as the coronavirus lockdown began in March 2020. It allows pet owners to speak to a caring, experienced veterinary surgeon from home, on their mobile, tablet or laptop.

The £24 consultation fee is refunded if the pet needs to be seen for treatment at one of the more than 60 emergency clinics and hospitals across the country.

Initially available only out of hours, the pioneering video consultation service was extended to 8am to 11pm seven days a week.

And Dave, who has fielded many of the calls, says he has had vital discussions of all kinds with owners.

Image of online vet for video vet advice at Vets Now

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“We will often have conversations with owners about end of life care with their animals covering their ailments, possible treatment options and their quality of life,” said Dave.

“The owners felt their dog was poorly, but just how poorly was the question.

“Sometimes in those cases it can be a grey area as to whether the dog is okay and just needs a bit of treatment. Or whether it’s more serious and we need to think about the animal’s quality of life.

“It’s important to be able to get a professional opinion, talk things through and be comfortable knowing what decisions may have to be made.”

Dave believes the ability to have those, sometimes difficult, conversations while still in the familiar surroundings of home and not in the strange environment of a surgery or clinic can be hugely beneficial.

So, too, can seeing the pet free of the stresses that can result from such a visit.

Image of senior vet Dave Hollinshead doing clinical work for Vets Now article on online vets
Dave splits his time between Video Vet and his job as senior vet at Vets Now's Sheffield clinic

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“There are elements of the animal’s behaviour that can be more easily assessed at home,” explained Dave.

“You see quite a few cases in out-of-hours clinics when the owner says they’re really worried about something their pet is doing at home. But in the clinic, they seem absolutely fine.

“Does that mean he is okay or is he really poorly and just hiding it when he gets to the clinic? It can be helpful to see them in their own environment.”

Dave had been involved in discussions within the veterinary profession about the use of so-called telemedicine and how vets might cope should they be faced with a pandemic.

So, he admits he “jumped at the chance” to get involved when video vet launched.

And owners can be assured that, although he may not be physically there in front of them, their pets are in the safest, most experienced, hands.

“It’s important to be able to get a professional opinion, talk things through and be comfortable knowing what decisions may have to be made.”

Dave Hollinshead Senior vet and video vet

After graduating, Dave worked in the Cumbrian countryside dealing with dairy cattle as well as looking after a hobby zoo with everything from reindeer to guinea pigs.

He then worked in different vet practices, handling every sort of small animal case before joining Vets Now.

And his passion for animals burns as brightly as ever.

That pet passion is something that doesn’t stop at the clinic, as his wife Jacqui is also a vet with Vets Now. The couple, who met at veterinary school, have two young sons together.

“While working from home can be nice, the main thing for me is that I really do believe in this and want to be involved and steer it in the right direction.”

Dave admits he still loves his hands-on work with animals and it’s an “ongoing war” in his head as to getting the perfect balance for him between remote and clinic consultations.

But, although the timescale and scope of video sessions were brought forward by the pandemic, he is sure it’s something that will continue to play a part in veterinary medicine.

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Video Vet lets you speak to an experienced vet wherever you are © Stewart Attwood Photography 2020

“There are certainly instances where going online, booking a consultation and having a vet there in front of you will keep being very useful,” added Dave.

“And we can get people to send images and videos over email, which can be helpful for things like wounds and behaviours.

“That lets me record very detailed information ahead of time which can be a real help to the vet in clinic, if we are sending an animal in for treatment.

“Sometimes an owner’s thoughts on whether an animal is bleeding a lot can be different to my own. Some things can be difficult to describe, and a picture can be worth a thousand words.

“I know owners really appreciate the service. I’ve got way more positive feedback from video consultations than I’ve ever had in a clinic.

“I feel this definitely fills a hole in what vets have been able to offer.”

Learn more about our video vet service here.