Innovators of the Week: Animal HealthLink Launches First Veterinary Telehealth Program for Northwest Territories and Nunavut

Since 2021, Animal HealthLink has triaged more than 200,000 cases for patients across Canada and the U.S.

L-R: Sean Neate, Nolan the chihuahua, and Leilani Mustillo of Animal HealthLink. Photo by Chris Landry.

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Leilani Mustillo, co-founder and CEO of Animal HealthLink and a registered veterinary technologist, and Sean Neate, co-founder and chief medical officer of Animal HealthLink and a veterinarian, are as passionate about their patients as they are concerned for their fellow industry professionals.

Veterinarians, especially in rural or remote areas, are almost always on call for after-hours emergencies even when their clinic is closed, and technologists are often unable to balance work and family commitments because of limited options to work from home. “The veterinary staffing shortage is global and it’s a major issue,” says Neate.

Animal HealthLink is intended to solve that problem by providing experienced triage and telehealth services that help animal owners get appropriate care promptly, allowing veterinary professionals to focus on patients’ needs more efficiently. “[Animal owners] know they at least have someone to talk to instead of just Dr. Google to determine if their animal is actually really sick or not,” says Neate.

This year, Animal HealthLink announced a partnership with Veterinarians Without Borders North America (with funding from PetSmart Charities of Canada) to launch the first veterinary telehealth program specifically designed for the remote communities of the Northwest Territories (NWT) and Nunavut. According to Mustillo, there are currently only two veterinary practices in NWT and none in Nunavut, meaning that animal guardians must travel long distances, often by plane, to get care.

“In this day and age, there’s no reason not to use technology to our advantage to improve access to care in areas where there is little to no veterinary care,” says Mustillo. “Now with the telehealth program, the Gjoa Haven, Tuktoyaktuk and Kugluktuk communities can reach a registered veterinary technologist 24 hours a day by phone, text or video call for any concern that may arise, no matter how big or small and no matter which species of animal. We are tremendously honoured and proud to be serving these Northern communities.”

Closer to home, Animal HealthLink also partners with Veterinarians Without Borders to help animals affected by the wildfires in Alberta.

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