Want to know what the most under-rated yet incredibly effective new tool in my veterinary arsenal is? Believe it or not, it’s my iPhone. Ever since texting and video and photo sharing became a common reality a couple of years ago, my iPhone has been stuck to me like glue.

Now, in case you don’t recall my post last month on the subject, I hate, hate, hate phones. But I love, love, love texting. It’s much better than expecting someone to instantly drop everything to answer a call.

Want to have the best chance at reaching me during off hours? Assuming I’m in town and available, I’m likely to return a text within seconds. For some reason, it’s psychologically easier for me to tackle a text than field a phone call.

This is why I’ve been slowly transitioning my clients over to the art of the text. And it’s not just about writing — not by a long shot. The smartphone medium is so powerful that I’ve even taken to asking clients to send photo, video texts and emails as follow-ups.

Not sure whether you should take up my time (or yours) with a post-op question about a really routine, no-sutures thing? Text or email me a great pic and you’re off the hook. In fact, I often advocate the use of internal stitches for this very reason, among others.

There are also cases when a daily look-see is ideal, but the owner doesn’t have the time, money, bandwidth –– or a compliant enough pet –– to follow our recommendations. A great example of this is last Friday’s case of sudden hair loss following the application of a flea product. I wanted to see how things were going with the pet's oozing sore, but the patient’s fractious attitude toward everything veterinary didn’t sit well with me or her owner.

My iPhone also comes in handy when I need to document how something looked at a last visit. (Is that bump on her head truly smaller or is it just my imagination?) Or when I'm assessing a certain behavior. (Was that a submissive smile or was he baring his teeth?)

I even instruct owners to turn into regular cell phone videographers when it comes to recurring concerns with their pets. Got an occasional gag/snort/sneeze that keeps coming back? A nagging cough? Is that a petit mal seizure or just muscle tremors from overdoing it at the park that day?

But my iPhone really shines when I’m not sure what I’m looking at and I want a pathologist, dermatologist, surgeon, oncologist, ophthalmologist or some other -ologist to have a cursory look at my patient without necessarily having to ship the animal to the specialty hospital ASAP.

It’s a win-win: The specialist gets a heads-up on what he's about to see the next day, and my clients get the added benefit of an early leg-up on diagnostics and treatment, based on what the -ologist has in mind.

The only downside? An iPhone chock full of photos of festering wounds, weeping tumors and miscellaneous other pathologies can be hard to organize. (Do I call this album abscesses and other miscellaneous wounds?) Sure, it may not be pretty, but as far as tools go, this one’s a winner.

So how about you? Do you whip out your smartphone to keep track of your pet?