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More than sixty percent of U.S. households have at least one pet, according to data from the American Humane Association. A start-up called Fuzzy Pet Health wants to make sure pet owners have no excuse but to take proper care of them.
Fuzzy provides in-home pet health care -- house calls for your fuzzy friends. The company sends its veterinarians to give check-ups, tests, vaccinations and other non-emergency care at the pet owner's home.
A first visit is free, then users can subscribe for one year's worth of service for $468. The annual subscription allows members to book future housecalls, get consultations via Fuzzy's video chat app, and order prescriptions and over the counter medications for their pets. The cost of the membership covers all non-emergency vet care for the year, including a year's worth of flea, tick and heartworm medications.
Anyone, not just paying members, can chat with a veterinarian online using the Fuzzy app or website to answer questions about their pets. The company is developing a kind of "chatbot" consultant that uses machine learning to answer commonly asked pet health questions, automatically.
Fuzzy is already operating in and around San Francisco, with plans to expand to New York, Los Angeles, and at least one Midwestern market soon, according to CEO and co-founder Zubin Bhettay.
Bhettay said, "Every year, we're seeing increases in incidents and illnesses in our pets. And around four to five million pets are euthanized, which is just gut wrenching. We think these trends are happening, in part, because people aren't going to the vet at all or as often as they should be for preventative care. We're really hoping to make pet health affordable and accessible for all."
While Fuzzy may sound like a luxury, Bhettay said, most dog and cat owners spend more-- at least $500 on just one to two veterinarian visits each year. Several pet insurance providers will reimburse users for half or more of the total cost of their membership.
The company's app has become popular in senior living communities, where many residents have pets but lack access to pet-friendly transportation options.
Investors have been flocking to "pet tech" in recent years, and in this case, are tantalized byt the growing market for veterinarian care. According to the American Pet Products Association, people with pets in the U.S. spent $16.62 billion on veterinarian care this year-- that doesn't even include the money they spent on over-the-counter pet products like food, treats and grooming supplies.