Weekly companion animal news: April 1, 2024

U.S. pet industry reaches $147 billion in sales in 2023: APPA

The American Pet Products Association announced that total U.S. pet industry expenditures reached $147 billion in 2023 and the industry is forecasted to have solid year-over-year growth through 2030. The announcement came during Global Pet Expo, which is co-produced by APPA and the Pet Industry Distributors Association. The breakdown of actual sales within the U.S. market in 2023 included $64.4 billion spent on pet food and treats; $32 billion spent on supplies, live animals and OTC medicine; $38.3 billion spent on veterinary care and product sales; and $12.3 billion spent on other services (boarding, grooming, insurance, training, pet sitting and walking, and all services outside veterinary care). “The data has shown that the pet industry has remained incredibly strong since 2009 despite wide-scale economic challenges. While there are signs of slowing, the industry is resilient, especially compared to other industries,” said APPA President and CEO Peter Scott.

PetIQ closes 149 retailer-based veterinary practices amid high demand for doctors

Pet medication distributor PetIQ has closed 149 veterinary practices located inside stores of partners including Walmart, Meijer and Tractor Supply Co., citing a tight labor market for veterinarians even as demand for pet care appears to ease from a pandemic peak, the VIN News Service reports. The company is simultaneously considering adding practices under a new Walmart-branded format after a pilot practice in the Atlanta area has seen success. Its closures indicate companies that have rapidly installed veterinary practices inside retail stores over the past five years may be struggling to find veterinarians to fill them. Petco said it has slowed the rate at which it builds veterinary practices, planning to build between five and 10 this year, down from dozens in previous years. Even so, Chewy is moving ahead on its growth plans.

ACVIM and MentorVet partner on mentorship program for new diplomates

The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and MentorVet are partnering to deliver a mentorship program known as MentorVet Lead for new ACVIM diplomates. Designed for ACVIM diplomates who have become board-certified in the past five years, MentorVet Lead will deliver peer support, coaching and mentorship to help new specialists thrive, according to the announcement. The six-month program will include learning modules focused on skills such as stress management, leadership, mentorship, team building and budgeting. It’s sponsored by Chewy Health, which funded its development and plans to provide scholarships to participants on an ongoing basis.

AAVMC statement outlines ‘significant shortages’ in veterinary workforce

A statement issued by the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges outlines the organization’s perspective on the often-contentious issue of workforce shortages in the field. The profession faces “significant shortages” of veterinarians, according to the statement, with evidence indicating the shortages “are a result of systemic, long-term trends in pet ownership and demand for veterinary services, along with limited capacity for training veterinary professionals.” These shortages “are expected to continue unless the veterinary medical profession takes action,” the AAVMC said. As many as 6,000 full-time veterinarians are needed to meet workforce demand, and 50,000 veterinary nurses and technicians are needed to maximize productivity in companion animal practice, the organization said. The statement recommends action steps for the profession to take to address the problem.

VetChip wins 2024 Purina Pet Care Innovation grand prize

VetChip, an Australia-based pet startup, was selected as the grand prize winner of Purina’s 2024 Pet Care Innovation Prize of $25,000, along with support from pet care experts at Purina. VetChip was one of five pet care startups from across the United States, Canada and Australia that pitched their businesses to pet industry influencers and investors at Global Pet Expo. The company’s device is implanted to gather data and alert pet owners via an app if potential issues or signs of illness or injury are detected, allowing for faster diagnosis and treatment. The other 2024 Pet Care Innovation Prize winners are Florida-based SwiftPaws, Missouri-based BestyBnB, Illinois-based Arch Pet Food and Canada-based RYERCAT.

Cornell launches CatGPT to answer feline health questions

The Cornell Feline Health Center, part of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, launched CatGPT, a chatbot that allows cat owners to ask questions about their pet’s health. The chatbot was developed by marketing agency Media Cause in partnership with the feline health center team, with instructions to use articles from the center’s website as well as a database of abstracts from peer-reviewed scientific publications as sources to answer user inquiries. Developers set the tool to have a “chatty, playful tone,” Cornell reports.

Covetrus launches vRxPro, online prescription management platform

Covetrus announced the launch of vRxPro, an online prescription management solution. According to the company, the platform, which currently has more than 12,000 veterinary practices signed up, “drives day-to-day staff efficiencies, helps improve animal wellness, can grow veterinary practice revenue, and empowers veterinary practices to strengthen [their] bond with pet parents.” The platform is part of Covetrus’ VetSuite offering.

Registration open for UVSA Annual Conference

Registration for the United Veterinary Services Association’s annual conference remains open. The UVSA Annual Conference will be held May 6-8 in Destin, Fla. This premier event offers a unique opportunity for industry professionals to engage in high-impact networking, gain access to the latest industry insights and research, and participate in thought-provoking discussions on the most pressing issues facing the veterinary sector. To register, or for more information, visit www.uvsa.net/events/2024-annual-conference/.