The digital veterinarian
The digital veterinarian 580 720Sven Jan Arndt

Recently, a "new sow has been driven through the village" - the digital veterinarian. They call themselves Dr.Sam, Pfotendoctor.de etc.

What's a person to think?

First of all, here are some excerpts from the promises of these platforms:

online veterinarian / digital veterinarian
Dr. Sam makes some promises here. The first four points are immediately apparent to us and are certainly correct.

But what about point 5? Immediate certainty!

Certainty about what?

  • that my animal is sick or not?
  • that maybe I should take my pet to a registered veterinarian after all?
  • that I'm paying a fee now for some vague information?

Pfotendoctor.de - Your digital vet goes even further:

  • "Our veterinarians can instantly determine how best to help your pet."
  • "The Fees are based on the official scale of fees for veterinarians. The height is therefore equivalent to any normal visit to a veterinary practice."

In order to be able to assess these statements a little, here is our experience from the daily operation of four small animal practices with well over 40 thousand cases per year:

  • a sick animal can only be examined in a very limited way, if at all via telephone or video chat - primarily it requires the physical inspection of an animal, palpation, fever measurement, control of vital functions, possibly smelling etc.
  • then often further diagnostic measures such as x-rays, ultrasound, CT, MRT and blood count follow
  • only these measures usually allow for a competent diagnosis and the corresponding therapy

Against this background, the following questions about the digital veterinarianarise:

  • how can he measure fever or examine vital functions (e.g. listening to a cat with pulmonary embolism etc.)?
  • how can he tell if a leg is just sprained or even broken?
  • even if he should be recklessly carried away to a remote diagnosis, which is actually forbidden by his professional ethics, what happens next?
  • How can he administer a painkiller or medication?
  • How does he write prescriptions?
  • How does he dress a wound?
  • How does he sew a bite?

One could spin these examples any further. The actual benefit of such a digital veterinarian therefore seems very limited:

The digital veterinarian, if he takes his training and professional ethics seriously, can, in case of doubt, always advise to consult a registered veterinarian or to find a suitable veterinary clinic.

Then the question does indeed arise - what is the advantage of the digital veterinarian?

  • in fact, we have many calls, especially in the emergency service, that actually do not want to come with your animal, but want an "absolution" by telephone, that everything is only half as bad and that you only have to go to the vet the next day - these pet owners can indeed be helped by such a digital vet - a placebo, which benefits the patient owner, but does not spare the animal suffering in case of doubt
  • if the digital veterinarian takes his profession seriously, then, to be fair, he probably has to send at least every second patient owner to a registered veterinarian, just like we did on our phone calls, because this is the only way to alleviate the suffering of an animal
  • The latter, however, costs nothing at your trusted veterinarian and if he should not be available, at the local veterinary clinic or the local veterinary emergency service as telephone information! This is the daily bread and service of every good veterinarian.
  • There are also veterinary clinics and emergency consulting hours nationwide, which are available 24 hours a day. So this alleged advantage of a digital veterinarian is also omitted.

Much more exciting is also the point - neither of the two mentioned platforms is operated by veterinarians - here the imprint of Dr.Sam:

The two directors are economists and not veterinarians. Also, the company's purpose, which is recorded in the commercial register, is rather vague and actually needs to be checked by the corresponding state chamber of veterinary surgeons:

The thing becomes even more exciting with the offerer your digital veterinary surgeon - Pfotendoctor.de:

digital veterinary surgeon - pfotendoctor.de

"The development, creation, marketing and distribution of telematics software." So where here is the reference to veterinary medicine remains hidden from us.

Against this background it is even more interesting, why such a platform charges according to the GOT (fee schedule for veterinarians) (according to own statement see above)? Here our veterinary surgeon chambers seem to sleep a little bit, the chambers that in some places would like to determine the size of the practice sign. Actually only someone who is a licensed veterinarian is allowed to charge according to GOT, or did we misunderstand something?

Also we do not find any of the veterinarians mentioned at Pfotendoctor.de as free or employed veterinarians on the internet! Also there is the term: "Veterinary surgeon, specialist area ophthalmology" so officially not. Should this possibly be a non-existent additional title or specialist veterinary training?

Our conclusion on the digital veterinarian:

  • The benefit of digital veterinarians seems to us to be very limited - what they can do, they get for free on the emergency phone or in every veterinary clinic as information free of charge.
  • The official operators of these platforms presented here do not come from the field of veterinary medicine and do not state this in their corporate purpose
  • So the question remains - is the term "digital veterinarian" / "online veterinarian" an unprotected professional title?
  • Is anyone allowed to settle accounts with such a platform according to the GOT?
  • When will the Federal Veterinary Association or the State Veterinary Associations review this apparently unregulated activity?


In the meantime, the first foreign providers (outside Europe - from Switzerland) are also setting out to cultivate the German market - we saw the following advertisement from pet-care.ch today:

Here the question arises whether and to what extent a non-European company may offer services in the field of veterinary medicine / online veterinarian in the EU, as these are subject to completely different admission criteria than their German colleagues. Behind this specific case is a large Swiss corporation - the Migros Group, which is known for everything, but little or not at all for veterinary medicine.