“NHS 24 for pets” launched - but vets have reservations

A new pet health telephone advice line has been launched this month. Credit Ocskay Mark/Shutterstock
A new pet health telephone advice line has been launched this month. Credit Ocskay Mark/Shutterstock
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A new pet health telephone advice line - similar to NHS 24 for humans - has been launched this month.

The nationwide PetGP service - which is aimed at owners whose do not have pet insurance - will be available for a monthly subscription fee of £4.50 and claims it will “make unnecessary trips to the vet a thing of the past”. Owners who don’t wish to subscribe to the service will be able to make a one-off call for a flat rate fee of £12.50.

PetGP will offer advice from qualified veterinary nurses on the end of the phone and describes its new pet health service as “game changing”. A spokesman said: “As research shows the average cost of a trip to the vet is £300, PetGP is set to help pet owners avoid costly bills.”

PetGP claims its new service will help to save owners across the UK hundreds of pounds from unnecessary trips to the vet, adding: “By avoiding these visits, PetGP saves owners time and money, and their pet from a potentially stressful experience.”

“PetGP is not designed to replace the vet, who is an essential part of maintaining a pet’s health. Instead, PetGP was set up to give pet owners peace of mind and expert advice on what to do next when they are worried about their pet and reduce veterinary costs through avoiding unnecessary trips.”

“Animals don’t speak for themselves”

However, the British Veterinary Association has expressed reservations about the new scheme.

BVA president Gudrun Ravetz said: “Tools for educating pet owners about their animal’s health are welcome. However, although triage phone lines have been used in the NHS for several years, for pets these can be more problematic as animals are unable to speak themselves, and many symptoms may be subtle signs that will only be picked up in an examination by a vet.

“We also dispute the figures given by PetGP that an average trip to the vet costs £300. This could have a serious impact on a pet’s health and welfare if owners believe taking their pet to their vet will cost that much every time.

“We would always recommend owners take their pets to the vet not only when unwell, but also for regular preventive health care check-ups to ensure their animal is happy and healthy.”