For all the joy they bring, owning a pet can be expensive. For example, the Australian Veterinary Association has found that dog owners can spend more than $25,000, on average, over the average lifespan of a dog. As well as the initial cost of buying or adopting a dog, owners can spend around $900 or so a year on their dog – with dogs living up to 20 years, this adds up.
With costs relating to a pet’s health often making up a chunk of this spend, a variety of services, such as pet insurance, have popped up to help pet owners manage this spend. Of course, managing a pet’s health can also be time consuming, so to help pet owners manage both their time and spend in Sydney startup Pawssum.
Founded by Guy Sharabi and Barry Green last year, the service allows pet owners to better manage the care of their pets, enabling them to book, manage, and pay for home visits from vets via app or website, and keep a record of their pet’s medical history, with the idea stemming from an experience Guy’s friend went through.
“My mate told me about her stressful day, when her 16 year old son called her at work, worrying about their dog vomiting, and she didn’t know what to do. She rang a few vets in the area but none could make a house visit,” Guy said.
“I couldn’t believe that in 2016, where you can get almost anything to your home on demand, a home vet visit was not widely available and affordable. After speaking to many pet owners, as well as vets, I noticed a gap in the industry and decided to take action.”
With assistance from Geoff Golovsky of Double Bay’s Vet HQ, Guy banded together with friend Barry Green and got to work on building Pawssum.
Of course, central to the service are the vets, and Guy saw Pawssum having a solid proposition for them as well as pet owners.
“At Pawssum we help vets to work on their own terms, away from the stress of a busy clinic and therefore able to spend more time with pets and pet owners in a relaxed environment. We do this because being a vet should not come at the expense of having a life. Too many vets lack a work/life balance and many struggle with juggling both a family and their own work commitments,” Guy said.
Meanwhile, with Pawssum referring pet owners to clinics if a house call is necessary, Guy said the additional revenue is also attractive to clinics.
Getting the first clinic on board “took a few meetings”, Guy admitted, but the rest came in “relatively easily” after that. Among Pawssum’s partners are Bondi Vet Hospital, Sydney Animal Hospitals, Vet HQ, and Citivet.
A year on from launch in Sydney, the service has seen over 900 home visits booked through the platform, but Guy said selling them on the idea of a home visit from a vet was a challenge initially, perceived by pet owners as not easily available in the first place and, if in the case that it was, expensive.
Pawssum charges customers $99 for most one-off home visits, with the service taking a 20 percent cut of this from the vet. Treatment for any other pets at the same appointment will cost $59 for each pet. Pawssum donates $2 from each transaction to pet charities such as the RSPCA and cats and dogs homes.
“[This] is a little bit more than what you will pay at the clinic but with the convenience of it being at your own home, around your busy schedule and availability,” Guy said.
According to Guy, a vet will always contact an owner before a visit to get more details and ask questions in order to provide them with a pricing estimate if necessary. During this call they will also be able to determine if the case can be treated at home or if it actually requires an in-clinic visit for urgent or emergency cases.
However, for most health checks, Guy believes a vet being able to look at the pet in its usual environment is beneficial.
“The vet, being in the pet’s own home, can also check the environment the pet lives in, review diet and provide recommendations specific to both the pet and its environment,” he explained.
“Pet owners [also] get more value for money; both pet and owner are relaxed and have more time with the vet, without that rushed feeling they get at the clinic.”
The startup has also introduced a Pet Wellness Plan. On a payment plan of $5 per week, Pawssum gives pet owners one routine annual vaccination and health check at home, one vet home visit for a sick pet, one audio or video call with a vet through Telepet, and 10 percent off a procedure at a partner clinic.
Pawssum isn’t the only startup looking to the pet space. Fellow Australian startup Knose wants to help make pet care more affordable through a monthly care subscription.
A standard Knose bundle includes an annual health check, vaccination, just-in-time home delivery of flea, tick and worm control products, and unlimited vet-nurse assessments, costing between $39 and $49 a month, depending on various inclusions and the location of the practice.
For vets, Knose cofounder Tiaan Dreyer said the subscription enables them to improve the predictability of revenue and cash flow, and reclaim revenue lost to non-expert retailers by including just-in-time home delivery of preventatives such as flea, tick, and worm control, while pet owners benefit in knowing their pet is getting the right care, in a package more easy to afford than transactional visits.
Having recently expanded into Melbourne, Guy said Pawssum is looking to further develop its platform in the year ahead.
“There is so much we want to do with the technology, bringing AI, telemedicine and big data capabilities into the platform.”
Image: the Pawssum team. Source: Supplied.