Scotland’s 1.2 million pet owners will now be able to get veterinary advice through their smart speakers, thanks to a Fife-based company.
A new voice assistant available through Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home has been created to give out information on next steps if a pet owner thinks their animal is unwell.
The system has been developed by Dumfermline’s Vets Now pet emergency firm, as part of a drive during the coronavirus crisis to make advice available without forcing owners to leave home or their pet’s side.
Speaking about the new voice skill, which is a UK-first, head of clinical intelligence at Vets Now, Dave Leicester said: “With many people reluctant or not able to leave their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic, we’re making veterinary advice accessible to everyone, through as many channels as possible including our website, video vet service, and now smart speakers.
“We fast-tracked our plans for the innovative voice skill in response to Covid-19 as we know how much pet owners are relying on remote veterinary advice just now — we’ve seen a huge spike in calls to our emergency contact centre and the uptake of our new video triage consultation service has been exceptional, with more than 500 video calls from worried pet owners since its launch in April.
“Our new voice skill is the next step in helping pets and their owners as much as we can during this incredibly difficult time. It’s a first release of the skill but we will continue to build and add advice to it in the weeks and months ahead.”
The new voice skill allows pet owners to discover common symptoms and find out treatment options for a small number of common illnesses and emergencies via simple voice commands.
For example, users can ask “Alexa, my dog has eaten chocolate, what should I do?” and it will respond with a series of questions about the dog’s breed as well as the quantity and type of chocolate eaten.
In this situation, the skill will work out whether the pet has eaten a toxic amount and, if it deems the intoxication to be potentially dangerous, it will provide contact details and the address of the nearest emergency vet.
The skill also answers some of the most commonly-asked questions on Vets Now’s website such as ‘what is pancreatitis in dogs?’ and ‘what are the symptoms of kennel cough?’.
All the answers on the skill were provided by senior emergency vets and more information is due to be added over time.