Pet telehealth startup Vetster and pet medications company PetMeds Express have partnered in a deal … [+] they say will bring pet telemedicine to the masses.
Vetster, a two-year-old telehealth startup for pets, and PetMed Express PETS PETS PETS , Inc., (PetMeds), a 26-year-old online pet medications company, have formed a partnership that will give Vetster access to the 2 million customers and 70,000 vets who use PetMeds, and give PetMeds the ability to offer telehealth visits to its customers.
The deal, announced today along with the news that Vetster has completed a $30 million Series B round of funding, could give the two companies a leg up against giant pet retailers Petco, PetSmart and Chewy, who all want to take a bite out of the lucrative pet wellness market.
Petco is expanding vet services in its physical stores and offers a membership program for wellness and grooming services. PetSmart last year launched its own online pharmacy. Chewy is looking to capture more of the pet prescription market by connecting its customers online with vets and taking other initiatives to entice vets to fill prescriptions through Chewy, including a partnership with a pet insurance company.
Vetster and PetMeds also will have to contend with competition from more than half a dozen startups offering some version of telehealth or vet messaging services.
The Vetster and PetMeds partnership comes at a time when demand for vets is at an all-time high due to the spike in pet adoptions during the pandemic, making telehealth visits with a vet a more attractive option for both pet owners and overworked vets.
“We feel strongly that this partnership is putting pet telemedicine out to the masses,” said Matt Hulett, CEO and President of PetMed Express.
Hulett, a veteran of digital companies and the former president of Rosetta Stone RST RST RST who led that company to a successful exit acquisition, joined PetMeds last year with the goal of unlocking growth and positioning it as the pet health expert.
“Telemedicine is a very seminal part of that strategy,” he said.
PetMeds, as part of the deal, is a minority investor in Vetster, contributing $5 million to the $30 Series B round. If PetMeds hits certain performance goals by driving more business to Vetster, it will acquire more shares of the company over time.
Hulett said he compared Vetster to the other pet telemedicine options out there and decided Vetster, while perhaps the least known, had the best platform, and the best user experience.
A pet owner talks to a veterinarian on the Vetster app.
“They were doing what AirBnB ABNB ABNB ABNB did in the travel space,” Hulett said. “They have a unique business model and technology that’s going to transform telemedicine and how vets practice.”
Vetster, Hulett said, was the only pet telehealth business he saw that had created a true marketplace for vet services, where users can see ratings and choose from a selection of vets.
The startup, based in Toronto, was founded to create an alternative to stressful visits to the vet’s office, with dogs barking and pets scrambling to escape from the examining table.
The Vetster experience “is totally different,” said Mark Bordo, CEO and CO-Founder of Vetster. “You take a really educated doctor, you put them in a one-on-one calm scenario where the pet is not running around and there is no rush for anybody, and it is a completely different experience, where you have the chance to talk to an educated veterinarian about your animal,” he said.
Bordo also had a personal motivation for founding the company. At the time he was a busy tech CEO and he couldn’t take his aging dog. Riley to the vet. “I thought this isn’t right. Why can’t I see my veterinarian through telemedicine the same way I can go see my doctor through telemedicine,” he said.
“Certainly the pandemic accelerated the notion of telemedicine, but this was conceived ahead of that,” Bordo said.
For vets, he said, Vetster gives them the ability to take appointments when they want and earn extra income. The typical session averages 15 minutes and the vets get to decide what they charge for their visit. Sessions typically start at $50.
The app also can store pet medication and health information that can be shared with other pet providers.
Vetster has 4,000 vets using its platform currently, and tens of thousands of pet parents have used it for telehealth visits over the past two years, Bordo said.
“We have almost exclusively five-star ratings,” Bordo said. “When people have the alternative experience of struggling to find pet care, can’t get in, they’re vulnerable and their animal is in distress, and then they discover Vetster,” they offer reviews like “you saved my animal, I couldn’t get into a vet,” he said.
Under the partnership, PetMeds will embed its e-commerce engine in Vester and Vetster add its telemedicine capabilities to PedMeds’ website and app properties.
Hulett expects the partnership to be a win for both sides.
“We have 70,000 vets at PetMeds that we’ve interacted with for 26 years. A majority of them are going to be Vetster clients soon. And then we’re going to connect those vets to consumers. We have over 2 million customers on PetMeds. So out of the gate this is going to get a lot of scale.” he said.

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