Vetster doesn’t have the shiny perks of other televet services (like emergency funds or employer-sponsored plans). Instead, they give you the flexibility to pick precisely which vet or vet tech you want to have a scheduled appointment with — based on their credentials, not just the fact that they live in your state. All of Vetster’s vet professionals provide excellent care for more kinds of critters than any other televet platform. Their services (especially Vetster Medical) trend expensive and include some hidden fees. Still, the quality of care and selection opportunities make this program worth it to us.
Pets always seem to get into trouble at the worst possible time. It might be 8 p.m. when you realize your cat’s eaten your flowers, but you don’t know if any of them are toxic and a consultation at the emergency vet costs three times more than a routine vet visit (let alone any testing or procedures). Or, maybe, you’ve noticed your dog is limping the night before you leave for a business trip, and your regular vet’s office is booked two weeks out. Instead of fretting, televeterinary services allow you to book an appointment for your pet and get them help without leaving your home.
Vetster is an online veterinary service that matches you with a locally accredited veterinarian to give your pet medical care over a video call. As a large and quickly growing veterinary telehealth platform, Vetster provides exceptional service for online pet health care. But Vetster isn’t your only televeterinary option, nor is it the best option for every situation. In order to help you decide if Vetster is the right choice for you and your pet, we broke down everything that Vetster is good for — and what it isn’t.
To help you find the best televet service for your household, we looked at a few core concepts:
In general, Vetster is a high-quality televeterinary care platform that connects you with local veterinary professionals who genuinely care about your pet’s health. If you need one-time triage care, an expert’s opinion on your pet’s behavioral problems, or a second opinion on your vet’s treatment recommendations, you’ll likely find great success with Vetster anywhere in the U.S., U.K., or Canada.
Since veterinary professionals set their own hours and fees but can only practice where they’re licensed, your options (including the time of day you can get an appointment) might be limited. You may also find it’s a little more expensive than other televet platforms, especially if you need to see a vet multiple times each month or if you need to see a DVM through Vetster Medical, but we still think it’s well worth its price.
Vetster goes above and beyond to ensure that your pets get the care they need. No matter what kind of creature lives in your home, yard, or barn, Vetster has a qualified (and, in the case of exotic pets, specialized) veterinary professional who can care for them. Few televet organizations see as many kinds of pets as Vetster, and even fewer have specialists like Vetster.
All of their vets are highly certified and have no history of harm or negligence (a bare minimum requirement, but not one that every televeterinary service makes clear). These vets give their all in every appointment, quickly responding to your questions after the appointment and interfacing with pharmacies if need be. Some vet techs in the Vetster Wellness program even offer grief support if you’re put in the difficult decision of arranging end-of-life services. While they might not be able to match the quality of a vet who’s known your pet for years, Vetster goes above and beyond most — if not all — other televet services in terms of their passion for your pet’s health.
With Vetster, you don’t have to pay for what you don’t use. There are no fees associated with just having an account. Instead, you pay a flat fee — set by the individual vet or vet tech — for each 30-minute call. Sometimes, these costs are on-par with televet services that charge a monthly flat fee. Still, they can quickly add up, particularly if you need to use Vetster Medical (which is more expensive because you’re seeing a veterinary professional with a DVM). However, it’s significantly cheaper than having to take a trip to the animal hospital (or even your regular vet) only to find out your dog is faking his limp because he realized it gets him more treats. That said, Vetster Wellness, the less-expensive call option that connects you with a certified vet technician, can handle most cases.
It’s important to note that Vetster also charges a 20% booking fee on all appointments. They don’t advertise this fee up-front, so you won’t see the final price (whatever the vet charges plus Vetster’s 20%) until you’ve picked a time to book your appointment. The costs of multiple visits add up quickly. You likely won’t find yourself spending more than $40 in total per call if you use Vetster Wellness, which is mid-range for a televet platform with a flat-fee payment model (ranging between $30 and $60 per call). With Vetster Medical, expect to pay at least $60.
Vetster has many expansive windows for your appointment. Depending on how many vets are available in your state, you’ll likely be able to see someone same-day, and you can sign up for a slot up to six weeks in advance if you aren’t in an urgent situation. Since hundreds of vets and vet technicians use Vetster, there’s seldom a long waitlist. However, unlike other televet services, Vetster’s operating hours are limited based on the vet’s preference. Some locations are better than others if you need to find a vet who has posted hours after midnight or before 8 a.m., and your state’s population often reflects how many vets are available. For example, you’re more likely to find an emergency vet who works overnight in New York than in North Dakota just because there are more vets available.
You’ll also have to make appointments at least 30 minutes in advance, so scheduling a last-minute call before they’re done for the evening isn’t an option. This is one way that Vetster stands out, but not in a good way — most other televet services have staff on call 24/7, or at least during their working hours, and have wait times less than five minutes (compared to Vetster’s 30).
Using another televet platform or an emergency animal hospital is generally better if you need advice in the middle of the night. But even if you have to wait until the morning, you’ll still be seen faster than it takes to call and schedule an appointment at your regular vet’s office.
Vetster’s minimalistic white-and-indigo layout makes it easy to find everything you need. Their app is easier to navigate than their website when altering your account and following up on an appointment, but finding the right vet is easier on a desktop. There are a few bugs, and not everything is in an intuitive place — such as figuring out the difference between leaving a note in your pet’s chart and messaging the vet — but it’s straightforward enough to be deciphered in a few extra clicks. We also dinged a few points here because of their hidden fees.
Once you’re in a video call, however, it’s smooth sailing. And after your appointment, it’s easy to contact that same vet for more information, clarification, or pharmacy support within 72 hours. This simple, easy-to-access platform is relatively standard across televeterinary services, so Vetster doesn’t necessarily stand out for this feature.
Innerbody Research has helped millions of readers over the past two decades make more informed decisions about staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles. But, since pet health doesn’t have the same needs as human health, what about online veterinary care?
Vetster offers veterinary care from both licensed veterinarians and vet technicians on a telehealth-style platform. We at Innerbody Research have spent dozens of hours researching, testing, and comparing services across this niche — but rapidly growing — specialty. Members of our team haven’t yet used Vetster themselves, though we plan to in the near future. In the meantime, we spoke with many users and a veterinarian alongside our rigorous research to give you our assessment of their value.
Like all health-related content on this website, this review has been thoroughly vetted by members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy, and we monitor Vetster’s developments to keep our content up-to-date.
Vetster is a marketplace for pet health support, connecting you with online veterinary care. Founded in November 2020, this televet service allows veterinarians and vet techs to create profiles and set their own competitive prices for their services. As a pet owner, you can choose vets from your state or province to help you and your pet in a video call whenever you need it. These appointments last up to half an hour and are available on desktop computers and mobile devices.
Vetster arranges care for a wide range of household critters. They will work with any animal you can take to a vet, including:
In addition to the list above, Vetster also offers an “other” category that pertains to exotic pets (like ferrets and chinchillas) or any other type of animal not listed. You can have up to seven pets linked to your account at any given time, but they can only be seen one at a time in a given appointment. This is the most expansive list offered by any televet service, making Vetster a great option for equestrians and exotic pet fanatics.
You can choose to be seen by either a veterinarian with a doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) through Vetster Medical or a veterinary technician through Vetster Wellness. Vetster Wellness is a less-expensive alternative if you don’t need triage care or comprehensive medical support, but it doesn’t sacrifice provider quality. Your choice here is particularly rare — while most televet platforms employ both DVMs and vet techs, Vetster is the only platform who lets you select your care provider (and scale the cost alongside it).
Like about half of all televet services, Vetster operates on a flat-fee model. This means there’s no monthly or annual subscription fee to use Vetster. Instead, you only pay for individual calls as you make them. The price of each call varies, but appointments start at $25 for Vetster Wellness and $50 for Vetster Medical. All calls have free direct messages with the veterinary professional for 72 hours after the appointment, so you can follow up as needed.
Vetster Medical and Vetster Wellness are available in all 50 U.S. states, all Canadian provinces, and the United Kingdom. (Notably, this makes them one of the only televet services consistently available outside of the U.S. Pawp services Canada, but Vetster is your only U.S.-based option in the U.K.) Your access to VetsterRx, however, depends on local laws around VCPR (the veterinarian-client-patient-relationship).
Vetster divides its services into two programs: Vetster Wellness and Vetster Medical. Each has a different base cost and can help with a different range of issues. Typically, other televet services use one model or the other — a more expensive, more in-depth experience with DVMs that offer medical advice, or less-expensive appointments that don’t. Vetster’s ability to offer both in one place gives you more flexibility to get precisely the depth of care you need in each appointment.
Let’s take a look at both Vetster Medical and Vetster Wellness.
A Vetster Medical appointment puts you and a licensed veterinarian into a video call together. Here, you can discuss most general health or behavioral concerns. A DVM can speak to just about anything your pet is experiencing, from litter box problems to a swollen eye. Programs like Pawp and AirVet use this same setup. But while DVMs can talk with you about your cat’s nutritional needs or your turtle’s end-of-life plans, so can vet techs in a Vetster Wellness appointment. Vetster Medical is better for pets who are actively experiencing a medical concern.
Some of the common medical problems addressed through Vetster Medical include:
Veterinarians who haven’t seen your pet in person cannot legally diagnose them, nor can they provide adequate medical support for emergencies. If your pet’s concerns are out of your Vetster Medical doctor’s wheelhouse, they will refer you to a local animal hospital more adequately prepared to help.
Each appointment starts at $50 for a 30-minute video call. Since each vet sets their individual price points, you could pay up to $150 for the call before Vetster’s 20% booking fee. The average price varies depending on your location.
All veterinary professionals who work with Vetster Wellness are vet technicians (veterinary professionals who have been certified after a two-year program and work under someone with a DVM). Their lack of formal education means they charge less for their appointments, and vet techs aren’t qualified to give diagnoses, prescriptions, or medical advice over televet platforms. However, vet techs are just as qualified to give you holistic advice and help you improve your pet’s quality of life.
If you have questions that Google can't answer or are struggling to figure out why your cat won't stop scratching the couch, a Vetster Wellness appointment with a vet tech can help. They’ll give you advice on things such as:
Many of Vetster’s vet techs are also licensed grief counselors. Vetster is the only televet service that provides this option at this time. It may seem a little over-the-top, but it can be an incredible bit of support if you’re struggling with the end of your pet’s life. Like all of Vetster’s care, the availability of licensed grief counselor vet technicians depends on your location.
Because you’re not getting a formal medical appointment, Vetster Wellness services are less expensive than Vetster Medical. There are also more vet techs than veterinarians working through Vetster, so you’re more likely to get an appointment when you need it. These appointments still last for 30 minutes but costs start at $25. From our research, most appointments cost $30; few vet techs increased their price over $30, and fewer charge $25, but again, the price ultimately depends on where you live.
Vetster introduced a prescription service to go along with their telehealth programs in August 2021. VetsterRx will fill common pet medications prescribed by Vetster Medical veterinarians in calls and ship them to you quickly. Very few televet services will take care calls, prescribe medications, and send them to you all in one trip, so Vetster’s one-stop-shop puts them above the rest. And in April 2022, they partnered up with PetMeds, an online pet pharmacy that’s been in the business for more than 25 years, to fill their orders.
Most televet services won’t write or fill prescriptions because strict laws surround who can and can’t prescribe medication for pets. Pawp, AirVet, and Connect with a Vet by Chewy are the only other platforms that offer medication, and Pawp and AirVet are both subject to these laws. (Chewy’s televet service is a little bit different because the online pet store is nationally well-established, so many in-person vets already send prescriptions to be filled through Chewy.)
VCPR laws set standards of care to ensure pets’ safety. Standards vary from state to state, but most require your pet to be seen in person by a veterinarian before that vet can prescribe medication. This creates a tricky situation for televet services: how can you prescribe medication if you haven’t met the animal face-to-face, but still recognize there’s a problem?
Luckily, many states are starting to recognize this puzzle and open up their VCPR laws for vets who meet pets over a video call. This reform has only just begun, so the current list of electronic VCPR states is small, but the list of states that have recognized telehealth as a valuable resource grows every day. Vetster does not have a public-facing list of states that currently allow you to get prescriptions during a televet call, but you can quickly see whether or not a veterinarian is capable of writing prescriptions by a blue “Rx” symbol on their veterinary profile. Our research found vets with prescribing capabilities in the following states:
If you live in a state that doesn’t allow online prescriptions, you may still be able to get one if you have previously met with a vet for in-person care and see that same vet through VetsterRx. Ultimately, it’s up to each vet whether or not they feel comfortable prescribing medications through telehealth. Before you decide whether or not to seek prescriptions with VetsterRx, be sure to check with your vet individually.
You can only get a prescription if you live in the U.S., so Canadian and British pet owners are out of luck. No matter where you live or who you’ve seen, you can’t order controlled substances or narcotics for your pet through VetsterRx.
VetsterRx applies a $4.99 dispensing fee to all orders, and you may need to pay extra for shipping, depending on the cost of the medication. If you buy more than $49 worth of medication, your order earns free standard shipping (3-5 business days), but you may need to pay extra for shipping if you want it faster or the prescription costs less than $49. Here’s how much your shipping options cost:
All prescriptions are processed and shipped within one business day. Overnight shipping is required for refrigerated medications like insulin.
VetsterRx can send prescriptions to a human pharmacy near you if it’s for an urgent concern when there is an equivalent medication for humans (such as dexamethasone for arthritis). You can also have the prescription faxed to either Mixlab or Chewy’s pet pharmacies for shipping and processing if you already use either of those pharmacies.
Vets and vet techs set their own prices on Vetster, so the amount you pay can vary. However, all Vetster Wellness calls start at $25 (though most cost $30), and all calls with Vetster Medical begin at $50. Very few Vetster appointments cost more than $100 per call, but our team found some that cost up to $150 per meeting with an average of $60-75. Some vets will change the price of their appointments depending on the time of day or week, so double-check your total cost before booking to avoid surprises. This financial unpredictability makes Vetster a little more difficult to navigate than their competitors and is the biggest drawback to their flexible marketplace. Every other televet service uses a standardized payment method, even when it scales across different appointment needs or membership levels.
A standard in-office visit with a local vet costs about $50, and a consultation in a pet hospital without any tests or interventions averages about $150. Though that cost can vary depending on your location, it’s not much of a difference between Vetster and in-person care. Since the vet can’t touch your pet to feel if that lump is a cyst or something to worry about, there’s a chance that your vet will send you to an animal hospital anyway. Vetster might not be the best fit if you’re trying to save money or are concerned about a new medical problem.
VetsterRx charges average pharmacy prices but has a small dispensing fee ($4.99) associated with each order. Depending on the price of the medication and how fast you need it, you might also have to pay a shipping fee that costs between $3.99 and $19.99.
There are no subscription costs associated with Vetster, but you’ll have to pay a stiff 20% booking fee when you make your appointment. This can quickly add up, especially if you use Vetster Medical. Vetster’s lack of subscription costs may also mean you’re paying more over time, depending on how often you use a televeterinary service because there are no bundle or bulk discounts available. Since vets set the cost of appointments, there are no sliding scale options for those unable to afford a call.
As of late 2022, Vetster did not accept any forms of pet insurance. They are building relationships with pet insurance providers to change that, so keep an eye out for future developments.
In the meantime, you can pay with any major credit or debit card.
Pets can be difficult to treat over video calls since much of veterinary care relies on the vet’s knowledge of subtle physical signs and symptoms. After all, pets can’t speak for themselves or explain what hurts. You can get advice on any non-emergency medical issue from a licensed veterinarian through Vetster Medical and, in certain states, prescriptions for medication to treat your pet.
We spoke with Dr. Linda Simon, veterinary surgeon and Consulting Veterinarian for FiveBarks, about the benefits of seeing a veterinarian through a service like Vetster. She says, “those who benefit most are people who do not need to see a vet in person but still need their services.” This might be useful if you’re “seeking diet and behavioral advice,” she adds, including “advice on non-prescription medicine, first aid [and] general care advice.”
Another understated way that televet services can help you is by getting a second opinion. If you aren’t sure if you were overcharged for a vaccine or if your vet followed the correct procedure during an office visit, a televet call can put you in contact with another professional. Dr. Simon says, “Understandably, this sort of thing is not something owners feel comfortable discussing with their own vet, so it is important for them to hear from someone ‘in the know.’”
Televeterinary care doesn’t have to stop at your phone screen when you find the right vet service. Those with difficulties transporting their pet — whether that’s because your English Mastiff doesn’t fit in your new two-door car or because your dog can get aggressive with others in the waiting room — will unlock new levels of care with televet services like Vetster. That’s because a veterinarian on a platform like Vetster can indirectly help those with mobility issues or a lack of transportation get to an office if needed. Dr. Simon says that vets “help as much as we can over the phone,” such as sharing “strategies for getting their pet into a clinic, which may mean the use of a local pet taxi service or a mobile vet.”
Most of Vetster’s limits are industry-wide problems for which you won’t find workarounds in other televet services. No televeterinary service is a replacement for standard veterinary care. Because of VCPR laws, it is impossible in most states to establish a veterinary relationship between you, your provider, and your pet through a televet service that’s thorough enough for full-time care. They can’t do blood work from afar, nor can they hold a stethoscope up to hear your pet’s heartbeat. If your pet has chronic health concerns or needs medication, make plans to see an in-person veterinarian.
Like all televeterinary platforms, Vetster is not an emergency service. If your pet is experiencing an emergency, such as heavy bleeding, confusion, seizures, or a broken bone, please see an in-person veterinarian as soon as possible. Vetster can help you identify when it’s time to make that call if you’re unsure, but they can’t do anything to help in the moment. Some other televet platforms have rainy day funds or emergency savings that you can use to cover the cost of services like pet insurance (often up to $3,000) if your pet experiences an emergency that they sign off on; Vetster doesn’t have this option.
Another big flaw in televeterinary care is that your vet can’t diagnose many conditions over a webcam. Anything that requires blood, urine, fecal testing, or any other tactile testing must be done in person. Dr. Simon says, “Nothing will ever replace an in-person vet visit when we can pick up on things that owners have missed, like a rotten back tooth, blocked anal glands, or a heart murmur.” However, during televet sessions, she “often has the owner check things…[including] breathing rate and gum color.”
One way to get around these problems while using Vetster is to take pictures and videos of your pet’s problem areas or bad behavior when you see them doing it. You can send these snapshots directly to your vet, which Dr. Simon says is “very helpful” in providing the best care.
Absolutely. Vetster’s veterinarians are nothing short of top-notch. With the ability to pick which vet you’d like to see according to your budget and properly scope out the vets’ qualifications, Vetster provides deep insight into those helping you care for your pet. Though separated by a screen and unable to perform physical tests, you can get almost the same quality of care through Vetster as you could in a vet’s office. And while you might not have all of the benefits of an in-person appointment, you can still get exactly what you need at a lower price with faster service. Even veterinarians like Dr. Simon are “huge advocate[s]” of televet services.
You might not have access to a vet 24/7 with Vetster, but you can still schedule a call to get expert advice when your regular vet’s office is closed. “It can be a real relief to have an expert verify that their pet is stable, and it is reasonable to wait until the morning to see the vet,” Dr. Simon says. That peace of mind alone is worth the cost of a call.
The biggest concern in online medical spheres is the legitimacy of licensing for health professionals. Vetster verifies the license of every veterinarian and vet technician who works with them before the professional can start taking appointments. They also:
Essentially, Vetster guarantees that all vets you see are not only qualified but ready and eager to help with a long, positive professional history. Most other televet services check this, too, but few make it as transparent as Vetster. And because Vetster lets you choose who you want to see, they hand some of the privilege to scrutinize your provider to you too.
You can use Vetster on both desktop computers and mobile devices. However, the app is more intuitive than the desktop version when you’re getting started.
First and foremost, you’ll need to make an account with Vetster. This will require your name and email address, street address (to verify your location), and phone number (for appointment reminders). You’ll verify your account with both your email address and phone number, so be sure to use ones you can access readily.
Once your account is set up, you’ll need to fill out a basic form about your pet. If you have multiple pets, you can repeat this process for up to seven pets connected to your account. If something happens to your pet, you can also remove their profile from your account, but you’ll have to contact Vetster support to reinstate them if you want to add them back.
This pet profile asks for your pet’s:
You can upload up to five pictures of your pet to rotate through as you see fit.
After you have at least one pet associated with your account, you can make an appointment for them. There are three different ways you can start this, depending on how you’re accessing the platform:
These video appointments can be made same-day with at least half an hour of notice or scheduled up to six weeks in advance. Be aware that vets are more likely to be booked the closer you are to an appointment slot.
You can use almost a dozen different filters to help you find the perfect veterinarian for your pet in their search tool. Every veterinarian and vet tech has a profile page where you can learn more and book an appointment with them. These pages include:
This way, you can read about each vet, see how others regard them, and breathe easy knowing you’ll have a friendly, competent, and efficient vet on the other end of your call. Because of this unique system, Vetster is the only service that lets you assess the vet ahead of time. Not only can this put your mind at ease, but it also means you’ll be able to connect with a vet who’ll have the right knowledge for your situation. Like human doctors, vets have different specialties. Allowing you to pick your provider per appointment means you can connect with someone who specializes in toxicology about the flowers your cat ate, or a vet with extensive equestrian experience for your horse’s dehydration.
To help you get a complete view of Vetster beyond our knowledge and experiences, we gathered information and feedback that others have shared online. There weren’t a lot of comments on the televet service — which makes sense, considering they’ve just celebrated their second birthday — but overall, feedback was positive. Here are the four most common things regular users have to say about Vetster.
Vetster is excellent at helping your pet's health and pharmacy problems in states where you can get a prescription written for your pet. If you message the vet correctly within 72 hours, they respond quickly to ensure your pet gets adequate care.
If you’re in a rural area without lots of vet access, Vetster fills that gap remarkably well (even if it isn’t a replacement for a suitable in-person vet). Likewise, they are particularly good at caring for exotic pets, especially if your local vet options are lacking.
Getting pet medication and prescriptions is one of the biggest reasons users turn to Vetster. This can be difficult when so many states still have strict VCPR laws, but they are opening to televet services a little more every day. Double-check your state’s laws before making an appointment. Those in televet prescription-friendly states say that Vetster’s pharmacy is convenient, fast, and easy to use.
The Vetster app has had some difficulties with navigation, particularly around when to pay, the inability to see prescriptions, and how to contact the vet (versus leaving a note in your pet’s chart). However, Vetster has recently added direct messaging with email notifications, making it easier to get in touch with your vet in the right place. (This also tells us that they’re dedicated to improving their service and that they hear your comments and concerns.)
Likewise, they have strong internal security policies and technical security measures to protect your information and video or phone calls, such as firewalls, anti-malware screening, and data encryption technology.
Vetster isn’t the only way to get good medical care for your pet. In some cases, it’s the fastest and highest-quality option; in others, it won’t help you at all. We’ll cover other televet platforms, online pet pharmacies, and baseline in-person veterinary care to help you understand the best time to use Vetster and what your other options look like.
Generally speaking, there are two main models of online veterinary care services: those that charge per appointment and those that have flat monthly (or annual) fees with unlimited messaging. Most televet platforms use video calls as their primary appointment modality, and most have a roster of pre-determined vets on call.
Immediately, a few things make Vetster stand out from other televet services. The option to choose exactly which vet you see is a huge plus, allowing you to screen for specialties, certifications, experience, and more when deciding. This gives you agency in the decision and ensures that the best quality vet sees your pet. Vetster is also one of the only televet service providers that offers care for exotic animals; a vast majority of other providers only see cats and dogs. And, like three of the other most prominent names in televeterinary care (Pawp, AirVet, and Fuzzy), Vetster has pharmacy access in some states based on VCPR laws.
Of course, Vetster isn’t perfect. They’re one of the only televet clinics that relies on scheduling appointments and doesn't offer immediate care. It can be more difficult (but not impossible) to get an appointment in the middle of the night, whereas providers with on-call vets can ensure someone is there to take your call at 3 a.m. Vetster Medical calls are some of the more expensive ones on the market, and that cost can increase significantly if you have to make more than one call a month. If your pet regularly gets into trouble or you’re a new pet owner with lots of questions, opt for a televet service with a flat monthly fee to save a little bit. On the flip side, a subscription you pay for annually at $25/month might not make sense if you just need one-time support or won’t need regular check-ins outside your traditional vet’s office.
Vetster is also not the best choice for emergency triage care, not because their providers can’t give you high-quality support, but because other organizations — namely Pawp, AirVet, and AskVet — have emergency or “rainy day” funds. In these situations, if the vet you’re speaking with says that taking your pet to the animal hospital is urgent and necessary, you’ll unlock a pseudo-insurance policy that will reimburse you for up to about $3,000 in bills. You have to pre-authorize the trip to use the fund, which you can only use once a year, but Vetster offers no such equivalent yet.
To give you more specific details about the seven best online veterinary services on the market (including Vetster), we’ve put together a chart below that explores the cost, type of care you’ll receive, insurance policies, pharmacy access, and more.
You can always read more about AirVet, Pawp, Vetster, and other top picks in our guide for the best online vet in 2023.
There’s nothing that can replace a good in-person veterinarian. Even if you use Vetster, it’s still critical that you have one because televet services can’t diagnose or perform physical testing on your pet. Often, blood tests are used to confirm diagnoses, and you can’t exactly send your pet to the local third-party testing facility for a quick visit.
However, there are times when it might make more sense to use Vetster than to try and get an appointment with your veterinarian. If you just need some advice (particularly if it’s a behavior you know isn’t from a health problem), a one-time Vetster Wellness call will be less expensive, and you’ll still get valuable, accurate information.
Another underrated use of Vetster is the uncomfortable situation where you’re unsure if your vet has given you the right advice or if you want a second opinion on their treatment plan. You can ask another veterinary professional what they’d do and if your in-person vet’s call sounds like the right one based on your pet’s symptoms, behavior, and lab results to guarantee your pet’s getting the best care. In general, if it’s something you’d Google, Vetster will get you more accurate results than the Internet, with a kind demeanor for less money (and time) than it takes to go to the vet in person. Medical problems, medication needs, and emergencies require in-office visits.
Vetster is also a good option for triage care. If you aren’t sure if your pet is experiencing an emergency or if they can wait until the vet’s next earliest appointment, calling an on-hand doctor for their advice could possibly save your pet’s life. However, Vetster can’t actually assist in any emergencies.
Most pet medications require a prescription first. You’ll almost always need to see a vet and then go to a pharmacy (or the vet’s office) to get your pet the drugs they need, whether that’s anti-nausea pills for a long car ride or antibiotics for an ear infection. If you go through Vetster, you’ll have to use VetsterRx for any prescriptions they send you. However, you have more options if you go through your usual vet.
Prices are generally comparable between online and alternative pet pharmacies, so picking your go-to is often a matter of convenience: how difficult it is for your vet to send in or sign off on the prescription and how long you’ll have to wait for delivery.
VetsterRx runs through the online pet pharmacy PetMeds, but they aren’t your only option to get your pet’s pills from home. Several companies build their business around filling and selling pet medications, such as PetCareRx and 1-800-PetMeds. Some major pet store chains, like Petco and Chewy, also offer online pharmacies. VetsterRx only fills prescriptions in limited locations, but anyone can order from a large chain or retail service as long as they have a vet sign-off. These places are convenient if you purchase other things like food, toys, or litter from the stores. They generally take 3-5 days to deliver your pet’s medication, with free shipping on orders over $49. And in Chewy’s case, if you get one of their prescriptions auto-shipped, you’ll unlock access to their televet service, too.
It’s more difficult for your vet to fill out a random online pharmacy’s paperwork on-demand than it is to fill a prescription through their recommended pharmacy. This includes Vetster’s televets, as VetsterRx is streamlined on both the vet and pet parent’s ends, allowing you to get a prescription, fill it, and ship it within one business day. On the other hand, Petco can take up to two weeks to tell you if they can’t reach your veterinarian for approval, so the time you save up-front may mean you have to wait later.
Your local vet’s office may also have a streamlined online pharmacy connected to their practice. If your pet regularly gets prescription medications, this is probably your best option because the office will be familiar with the system (and, therefore, able to sign off on prescriptions faster). Sometimes, you can pick up medications at the office, but always check with your provider first. Most offer delivery (though you may have to pay more for shipping), and the prices are also competitive.
If your pet takes a medication also taken by humans (like gabapentin or dexamethasone), some large retail chains will fill those pet prescriptions. CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, and Rite Aid pharmacies will generally take care of your pet’s medications in person or for delivery. This is going to be your fastest option other than your vet’s office and is especially convenient if you’re already stopping in to pick something up for yourself. However, your medication options are minimal at best.