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Tech & Pets: A Vet In Your Pocket

Pet owners are regularly concerned about hefty vet fees when they consider the services and maintenance their pets require.

In some cases, the fear of the price tag can be so extreme that owners are forced to avoid seeking important vet check-ups. But now owners can access a vet through the UK based start-up, Pawsquad, for just £7 a month.

The London-based start-up which was founded in 2015 provides vet advice over a video chat service or chat through a messaging service for the cheap fee or under certain pet insurers.

In about half the calls received, Pawsquad determines if the pet owner’s concerns can be addressed at home safely before they hike the fee for a private vet visit.

Mark Broddy, the company’s chief executive, told the BBC that some pet owners can find vet visits a stressful experience.

‘In fact, a visual assessment of a pet in their own home can often reveal much more than a highly stressed one in a clinical environment,’ he said.

‘Animals by nature tend to do their best to hide signs of illness under conditions of perceived threat.’

Digital pet health services are getting hitched not just in the UK but across North America and Europe, but Australia has not yet seen such an innovative product hit the market yet.

David Pren, chief executive of FirstVet based in Stockholm that also delivers pet services in across Scandinavia, said their services do not replace traditional vet clinics but instead as a supplement to those diagnostic appointments.

It’s a critical point to note because start-ups like these in many countries, including the US and Europe, aren’t authorised to prescribe medication to animals. While Sweden overhauled its regulatory system to afford these start-ups to prescribe medications over the phone, the UK doesn’t allow it.

Australia does have an website that offers video consultations for pet owners via video call, but still comes at a much more expensive price than international businesses.

For a video consultation, YourPetOnline charges $49.94 per session, $30 for a prescription and $14.95 for an email discussion – much more hefty than Pawsquad’s £7 a month that is inclusive of all services.

It’s still an Australian untapped market considering a national study of pet ownership by Animal Medicines Australia (AMA) discovered nearly two in three Australian households have a pet – equating to around 24 million pets in Australia.

Digital pet products also offered on the Australian market include a swearing bark collar, Instagrammable dog platforms, pet GPS trackers, automatic doggie doors, pet diet recommendations and pet behavioural advice.

(AAP Image/ Sebastian Langton)



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