BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital has released two reports detailing how the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted pet ownership and veterinary practices in the United States. The first report, based on contributions from 654 BluePearl practices, examines how veterinary clinics are affected by the pandemic. The second, based on a survey of 39,000 BluePearl customers, describes the evolution of pet ownership during COVID-19. The surveys were completed in August and September 2020.
According to Coronavirus Changes, Challenges, and 2020 Vet Report: BluePearl Pet Hospital, approximately 1.1 million pets were seen in BluePearl Practices in 2020 – an increase of more than 200,000 from 2019. Of those 1.1 million pets, 660,000 were first-time patients. The practice also reported that ten times as many young pets (<1 year) were seen in 2020 as in 2019 - clear confirmation of the increase in pandemic pet adoption, especially puppies and kittens.
“As pet ownership continues to grow and more people recognize the benefits of human-animal bonding, the demand for veterinary services increases. As a result, we as an industry have been forced to change our options for patient accessibility, including using telemedicine to meet patients where they are, ”said James Barr, chief medical officer of BluePearl, DVM, DACVECC, in of this press release.
BluePearl also noticed a shift in the way their vets are providing care. Almost half of those surveyed said they saw more cases of unusual illness, vomiting / diarrhea, behavior problems and injuries from outdoor activities such as walking or playing in dog parks in 2020 as a result of late or neglect of care.
The biggest pandemic-related challenges reported by the surveyed vets were safety protocols (54%), increased patient volumes (51%), staff safety and wellbeing (37%), poor customer communication (26%), and employee retention (14%).
Full House: People and Pets in the Pandemic: BluePearl Pet Hospital’s 2020 Pet Owners Report features 39,000 survey responses from pet owners about their experiences during COVID-19.
They found the following:
- The majority of pet owners (59%) work remotely and expect to do so for another year or more.
- 84% of owners say their pet offers them companionship and comfort.
- Owners are more attentive to their pet’s health needs (69%) and daily habits (49%).
- 79% of owners say they are likely to see a veterinarian if something is wrong with their pet.
A majority (77%) of respondents said they had taken their pet to a veterinarian within the last 3 months. The five main reasons were illness (23%), chronic concern (23%), emergency / injury (20%), older pet (13%), and new pet (11%).
What it means for veterinary practices
According to Paul J. Pratscher, director of customer experience and insights at BluePearl, one in five Multipet households has added an additional pet in the past few months and this is expected to continue. “With many pet owners planning to add another animal in the future, the veterinary community may see steady or increased patient exposure and ongoing challenges throughout 2021,” he says.
To learn more and view the full reports, visit the BluePearl website.