Stephanie Schwartz

Ian Voelzel, Westlake Animal Hospital's medical director, demonstrates veterinary telemedicine for the author's dog, Mateo. (Stephanie Schwartz)

It all started with an idea about Carfax reports, but for horses.

Steven Carter and Price Fallin had a friend who spent a lot of money on a high-performance horse, and it turned out that before the sale, the seller had medicated the horse to hide some problems. The group thought it would be good to have health records before a horse purchase—and in 2015, they founded Horse Facts.


Carter said that as part of this business, he and Fallin spent a lot of time in equine veterinary practices. There they observed that many people were traveling great distances, even across several states, to take their horse to the vet. The two partners then created an equine telemedicine product. And word spread.

"Through pure luck, some small animal vets found my phone number," said Carter, "and they would call, and literally every call they would say, 'Are these the horse guys?'"

Carter and Fallin renamed their business TeleVet in 2016, and they went on to serve mostly small-animal vets, along with a few large-animal vets and one vet that does telemedicine for 50,000 pigs.

In January, about 100 veterinary practices used TeleVet. As the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., that number rose quickly to over 1,000 practices. The company recently announced it is offering veterinary practices a free month of service during the pandemic.

TeleVet's system allows veterinarians to interact with animal owners through video, texts and phone calls. States set guidelines for veterinary telemedicine, and Texas requires that a veterinarian have an established relationship with an animal before treating it, which means having previously examined that pet in person.

Carter said that an increase in veterinary telemedicine was poised to happen, even before the pandemic.

"I think the veterinary practices as a whole knew that telemedicine was something on the radar," he said, "but they often thought they would put it off for a year or two."

Due to the rapid increase in demand, TeleVet is accelerating planned expansions to its platform. To bring in the necessary resources, the startup is raising more funding, after closing a $2 million seed round in January.

Ian Voelzel, veterinarian and medical director of Westlake Animal Hospital, said that he had been considering telemedicine before the coronavirus pandemic, but not all vets at the clinic were on board. Now the practice is using both TeleVet and curbside service to continue to treat its patients.

It is working well, allowing the staff to feel safe about coming to the practice for procedures that must be done in-house, such as a recent surgery on a cat's broken leg. Which is not to say that there are no challenges to veterinary telemedicine.

"Our patients don't talk," Voelzel said. "We are trying to get the information through the owner—a third party, basically."

He expects telemedicine to be a part of the clinic's practice even when social distancing requirements have relaxed. Voelzel said the platform is great for checkups after an operation, as well as a triage to determine whether an animal needs to be seen in the clinic.

There is a limit, however. Voelzel said that manipulating the limb of an injured animal, for example, can produce a dangerous reaction. Dogs with ear infections can also be very protective. There is an art, and sometimes the involvement of sedatives, to being able to examine an animal.

"Some things we can't train the owner to do," he said.

(Capital Metro)

Rendering, Project Connect station

The Austin City Council on Friday unanimously approved a measure to add to the November ballot the massive $7.1B "Project Connect," a 20-year overhaul of Austin's transit system that would include a new light rail and "rapid bus" lines.

The council plans to add it to the ballot in a formal order next week, members said. Then it's up to voters to decide whether to approve it.

Keep Reading Show less
(Tito's Handmade Vodka)

Sponsored by Tito's Handmade Vodka

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 oz Tito's Handmade Vodka
  • 4 oz root beer
  • 1 scoop vanilla ice cream
Directions: Pour Tito's Handmade Vodka into chilled mug. Top with root beer, add a scoop of ice cream and enjoy!
(Pexels)

Life was so sweet for live music junkies living in the Live Music Capital of the World—up until the venues closed, the stages went dark, and the world of Austin music closed down.

Miss your places? Miss your people? Miss blowing all your money on music?

Keep Reading Show less

The Austin Justice Coalition created a jingle—"No Confidence in You"—in service of its campaign to get Austin Police Department Chief Brian Manley to resign.

The Austin Justice Coalition is clearly frustrated with city leadership, which has not responded to its request to cut $100 million in funding from the Austin Police Department and remove Chief Brian Manley (or make him resign).

Keep Reading Show less

The Austin Independent School Board delayed the school year to Sept. 8 in an early-Friday vote, giving teachers three more weeks to prepare for online learning and the community more time to see a drop in COVID-19 cases before students, faculty and staff return to the classroom.

Keep Reading Show less
(Kevin Ludlow)

The petition, if validated and approved by voters this November, would have reinstated a city ban on public camping.

The group behind a petition to put a citywide public-camping ban on the November ballot in Austin said Thursday that they were "engaging a highly respected local Democratic litigator" in their efforts to fight a city ruling earlier in the week that their petition did not enough valid signatures.

Keep Reading Show less
(screenshots)

David Frost, 22, filmed Austin protester Justin Howell (left) being carried to medics after being shot in the head by an Austin police officer. Other officers then shot at the protesters as they approached, causing them to duck (right).

David Frost, 22, had never attended a protest before the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in May. Then the cell phone-wielding Austinite became a key player in a series of events that touched off major change in the Austin Police Department.

Keep Reading Show less