COVID-19 / Data / Lifestyle

Report: In a time of uncertainty, pets are still very good

VitusVet's survey shows that pets are a source of comfort for their humans, and they're getting more activity. The Canton-based startup is hiring as it looks to continue serving essential veterinary practices and pet owners.

Heart of Caregiving by Eunice Lafate (Courtesy Photo)

While the shift to remote work during a pandemic is bringing lots of schedule changing and stress for people, there are some other friends who are getting — and giving — more attention these days.

New data from Baltimore startup VitusVet, which makes a digital platform for veterinarians, shows that pets are providing a source of comfort during the pandemic. The survey of more than 1,000 pet owners showed the following results:

  • Just over half (52%) of respondents said they are feeling more loved and comforted than usual by their pet.
  • Pets are also getting more exercise, as 53% report more playtime and 39% report more walks.
  • They’re also making more appearances on social media, with 36% of people taking more photos and 22% of pets popping up more on video calls.

It’s even the rare group that is making new friends.

“We’ve even seen some shelters that are seeing some significant upticks in adoptions,” VitusVet CEO Dr. Mark Olcott said.

Those were just a few of the responses from a survey that showing an outpouring of love for pets in and of itself.

“It was 10 times the response that you would’ve predicted for a normal survey like this,” he said.

Olcott said more than 900 of those people also added thank you notes to veterinarians in the comments section of the survey. The vets remain open as essential businesses during the crisis, providing care.

Friendly text reminders from VitusVet. (Courtesy image)

The survey also served to surface how COVID-19 is affecting pets. One-third of respondents said they had concerns about COVID-19 when it came to pets.

They asked questions like whether they should let dogs continue to play, even as owners social distance. And many asked if the new coronavirus can stick to pet hair or fur.

“There’s never been a documented case of a human getting the coronavirus from a pet,” Olcott said. There was one case at the Bronx Zoo where a tiger contracted COVID-19, but that was transmitted from a human, as opposed to vice versa.

As far as how vets are social distancing, Olcott, who is a veterinarian himself, said he hears from many others who are doing curbside check-ins, or meeting in parking lots. Given all the uncertainty in the world, he also said they understand that people might have questions about their pets, but may think vets are overwhelmed. In the end, though, he said they’re the best source of information.

“Its not a hassle. We’re here for you,” said Olcott, who started working on what became VitusVet during studies for his MBA at the University of Maryland. “It’s more of a calling than a job, candidly. Most vets have never wanted to do anything else.”

The VitusVet team, which moved its headquarters to Canton last year and received investment from Nationwide Insurance, is also continuing to grow its tech platform that helps veterinary practices manage appointments, communication and records. In the time of social distancing, the company is seeing an uptick in texting between vets and pet owners to get those questions answered, as well as digital prescription refill orders.

It’s also hiring technologists, including open roles for a VP of product and senior software engineer.

Companies: VitusVet
Series: Coronavirus

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