Urban farms have gone from fad to big business and the trend is catching on fast in major cities throughout the U.S. In New York City, for instance, it isn’t uncommon for buildings to have rooftop farms. And in Chicago, the world’s largest urban farm recently opened up.

Urban farming benefits the local community and the environment. It can increase social capital, community well-being and even civic engagement. In addition, it reduces ‘food miles’ from farm to table, and it cuts down on the use of fossil fuels that pollute the environment. Urban farming also gives under-served neighborhoods access to fresh foods, and it engages consumers who want to learn more about how food is grown, locally.

But it’s not just the agricultural movement that has been catching on like wildfire within cities throughout the U.S. There’s also been a rise of people who reside in urban settings who own farm animals as pets.

Farm animals as pets in major cities?

Pet owners may start with agricultural intentions, but once they name these animals, they often become a part of the family. Many pet owners even come up with whimsical names, such as Ellen DeHeneres.

While there are many benefits to raising farm animals as pets in an urban setting, one major challenge is what to do when these pets get sick. With an ongoing shortage of specialized veterinarians – especially large animal vets, the odds of being near a specialized practice for urban farmers is pretty slim.

Without access to local veterinary care, many people resort to seeking medical advice from popular blogs or online forums, which may be rife with poor treatment tips.

This could very well all change soon, however, as the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA) recently announced its effort to help veterinarians take on telemedicine.

The AVMA is currently developing a thoroughly “extensive toolkit and guidelines for members who are interested in using telemedicine in practice.” The first phase of the toolkit is expected to be available in September and the remaining guidelines to be in place by June 2018.

For both pet owners and providers, this all comes as fantastic news! Pet owners can connect with experienced veterinarians located across the globe, and providers can increase their business by seeing more patients. If a turkey is experiencing respiratory issues, or a hen has an irritated eye, specialized veterinarians can diagnose and prescribe the right treatment option(s) within minutes.

With veterinary telemedicine, urban pet owners of farm animals can eliminate the countless hours spent scouring the web for information that may or may not be useful. The inefficient logistics of traveling to a specialized veterinarian can also be eliminated. And lastly, with veterinarians using telemedicine to connect with urban pet owners of farm animals, more of these pets can live healthier and longer lives.