Innovative, disruptive, radical . . . the number of creative ideas, products, and services presented at the Petcare Innovation Summit ( and the Plug & Play ( events this past December was amazing. Both conferences addressed pet care industry trends. Start-ups and other innovative companies discussed their products and services and gave insights into the future of pet care.

In addition, attendees had the opportunity to connect with industry providers and explore investment opportunities. These two meetings are different. You can think about Plug & Play as an incubator for startups, and the PetCare Innovation Summit is an opportunity for startups to apply and pitch their idea. Even though they are different, there was common messaging—namely, the use of technology and artificial intelligence, the importance of sustainability and alternative protein sources, and accessibility to care. Here are some of the highlights.

Technology and AI

Before you discount the impact of technology and artificial intelligence on your business, please take a moment to consider how their adoption by your competitors, clients, and even your team members affects how you operate your business. Innovation does not always require completely replacing an existing product or service. It can involve enhancing an existing service or adding options to the business’ toolbox. For example, new technology to feed cats or a smart collar may be great additions to the Veterinary healthcare team’s toolbox.

Bistro Cat ( is the first automated wet cat food feeder. You may shrug your shoulders and say it doesn’t apply to your Veterinary business . . . or does it? Have you ever discussed water intake with clients whose cats have diabetes, kidney disease, or hyperthyroidism? Of course, you have. What did you recommend? Adding a new tool that is easy to use and attractive to those who like the insights of technology via apps is a win-win for the cat, the cat’s family, and how the client views your involvement in helping them help their furry family member. Wait, there’smore.

There are many other products and services that can contribute to patient care and client service in the Veterinary healthcare field outside of surgical and treatment innovations. Some may create new revenue streams for the business. Other companies to watch are:

  • Maven—A smart collar that works with Veterinary hospitals to enable veterinarians to use data and AI-VetTM to monitor their patient’s movement, activity, and behavior remotely (
  • Moggie—Bluetooth-enabled collar focusing exclusively on the health and activity of felines (

Technology and AI products with a direct connection to providing diagnostics and Veterinary care are as follows:

  • MI:RNA—A diagnostic testing company combining microRNA biomarker testing with machine learning AI to diagnose early-stage heart disease from a blood, urine, or saliva sample (
  • Radimal—Providing access to specialists and AI-powered insights for radiologic images (

Veterinary healthcare teams can use technology and artificial intelligence tools to augment services, improve medical outcomes, and identify health conditions in their early development stages. It is important to realize that “AI won’t replace humans. But humans with AI will replace humans without AI.” (Harvard Business Review, Aug 4, 2023). Finding ways to incorporate AI tools into patient care and client service will be part of the strategic plan for success in the future.

In addition to technology and AI, other key factors impacting developments in pet care were sustainability and alternative protein sources.

Sustainability and Alternate Protein Sources

Lest you think sustainability is a fad, consider these statistics presented by panel participants making the case for sustainability—99% of the 300 million pounds of pet food packaging goes to a landfill each year, 25-30% of proteins raised in the U.S. go to feed pets, and 92% of consumers say sustainability is important to them.1

For anyone wanting to make choices and take actions that balance economic, social, and environmental considerations to ensure long-term well-being for both current and future generations, having options is necessary. Companies presenting options in the area of pet foods are:

These companies and others are formulating sustainable treats and food, utilizing alternative proteins, plant-based products, all-natural ingredients, and eco-conscious packaging to provide regular diet options and allergen-friendly and personalized weight loss diets. Moreover, it is not just food products. Pet accessories and grooming products also prioritize eco-conscious products and services, natural materials, and recyclable packaging. For example, a waterless pet grooming system that saves the pet owner money by stretching out the time between baths and helps the environment by using less water (Peticures ( Sustainability expectations are growing among consumers, and innovative companies are meeting the demand.

Access to Care

Consumers also demand affordable and accessible healthcare—this sounds like a mantra for human healthcare, but it’s also a critical need for pet care. This challenging issue has been a concern for a number of years; however, recent inflation rates and the shortage of veterinarians have exacerbated the problem for many pet owners. Individuals, virtual care providers, pharmaceutical suppliers, and pet insurance companies are responding to the situation.

A panel at the Petcare Innovation Summit presented ideas for improving access to care. Just knowing the data is a good starting point. The Veterinary Care Accessibility Project ( publishes a map with Veterinary care accessibility scores (VCAS) for every county across the United States, with the goal of presenting data to help guide decisions in improving access to care.

Another panel discussion at the Summit discussed how affordability and access to care can be improved through the adoption of pet insurance. The panel pointed out the increasing number of employers offering pet insurance to their employees and the need for health savings accounts (HSA) and flexible savings accounts (FSA) to cover the purchase of pet insurance.1 Additionally, while it may seem that pet insurance has grown in popularity with pet parents, data shows that the U,S, lags behind the UK (4% penetration compared to 20%) in the purchase of pet insurance.1 There is room to grow in the pet insurance sector, and one innovative company entering the pet insurance space is Nibbles (, which provides customizable coverage and plans for any budget.

Other companies improving access to care are pet pharmaceuticals. An innovative company in this space is DAW (Adam Forman, COO at DAW Systems, Inc. ( DAW enables the veterinarian to electronically send scripts to CVS or Walgreens using their platform, ScriptSure. The conversation in the exam room may sound like this, “Ms. Smith, are you still using the CVS Pharmacy on Grove Street? Okay, I’m sending Fluffy’s prescription there.” We saw other companies in the space at last year’s major conferences and expect to see more. Ten years from now or sooner, you will be able to provide your client with the same service they experience from their own medical doctor.

Sometimes, clients aren’t even seeking care for their pets and a little motivation to find a veterinarian is needed. A case in point is an innovative program to spur new client acquisitions. Dr. Christopher Brooks, VP of Sales at Embark Veterinary, announced at The Pet Care Innovation Summit a program for Veterinary practices to provide free genetic tests at community pet events (e.g., take your dog to the ballgame, bark in the park dog walk. or a Dog Paddle Pool Pawty at a water park). Practices purchase the tests at a discounted price to use at an event. Team members of the Veterinary practice swab dogs at the event and offer to review the results on the dog’s first visit to the practice. Not only is this a tool to acquire new clients, but it also provides breed and health information to promote individualized care for the pet.

The concept of access to care is expanding across other pet industry sectors, such as adoption, training, and boarding, as well. Panelists discussing this topic included Petszel (, which is the first-of-its-kind platform that integrates with shelter management software to allow Veterinary practices to connect early with pet adopters and collaborate with animal welfare organizations, as well as representatives for the training (GoodPup at and pet sitter/dog walker sectors (Rover at Making it easier to connect with pet parents seems to be the key for these companies working to reduce the “pet care desert.”

Pets provide their owners with so many positive benefits (unconditional love, emotional support, and reduced healthcare costs), innovative companies are making it possible for pet owners to return the favor by improving affordability and access to care.

Transforming Veterinary Care

Whether using technology and AI or tapping into products and services of innovative companies, some of which are disrupting the old brick-and-mortar Veterinary business model, the message is clear—how we deliver Veterinary care is changing because of what these companies are bringing to the Veterinary space.

As one presenter at Plug & Play communicated in their PowerPoint presentation, “Innovation is seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought” (Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, known for identifying Vitamin C and researching cellular respiration and muscle contraction). Listening to the presenters at these two conferences, one may marvel at the solutions they developed for problems we all see every day. Innovations are transforming the way we care for pets.

References and Resources

1 Jeffery Mard (n.d). [LinkedIn page]. LinkedIn. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from