Chewy Offering Virtual Vet Visits as Pet Popularity Rises

Pet ownership has seen a boom in popularity in pandemic times, and companies that cater to them are clamoring to set themselves apart.

Chewy, a pet food and products online retailer, announced that customers who are enrolled in its automatic shipping subscription service will have free access to a licensed veterinarian to answer any questions related to their pet’s health. The service will be offered to customers in 35 states starting Oct. 28. 

Vets will offer guidance and refer pets to an emergency clinic when appropriate but will not make diagnoses or prescribe medications.

Expanding to telehealth offerings was a part of the company’s long-term plans, said Chewy CEO Sumit Singh, but the coronavirus pandemic sped up the timeline.

The company, based in Boston and Miami, offered a pilot version of the program to customers in Massachusetts and Florida in May, earning high ratings from many of its users.

“We have focused our efforts into developing an easy to use and convenient tele-triage product that we anticipate will have a positive impact given the current environment, and also extent beyond that,” said Sumit Singh, CEO of Chewy. “We are always looking to enhance our customers’ experience.”Singh hopes that this plan will also deepen customers’ loyalty to the brand.

“We treat pets as family, so that is not a category that you generally cut spending in or you think about cutting spending in,” said Singh. “When you’re rationing your budget, that’s likely the last category on your list that you do it in.”

Pet adoptions skyrocketed in popularity as lockdowns sent workers home, making the ability to care and nurture pets more of a possibility. As a result, the pet market exploded as new pet owners found themselves grappling with new pet-related expenses, such as food, veterinary care, and pet toys.

“We saw this during 9/11, whenever there’s unrest, people tend to nest at home,” said Pet Supplies Plus CEO Chris Rowland, “When they want to make their house feel even more like home, they get more pets and pamper them more.”

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