Joan Verdon Senior Contributor Sep 12, 2022,09:00am EDT
Pet insurance company Fetch by The Dodo announced today that it has created a dog disease database that will enable dog owners to learn what medical conditions their pet is at risk for, and to take preventive measures.
Dog owners will be able to get a comprehensive health report on their dog by entering the breed, age, and zip code where the dog lives in a link on the Fetch by The Dodo website.
The report will draw from 150 million clinical data points culled from over 725,000 dogs during the 16 years Fetch by The Dodo - previously known as Petplan - has been processing medical claims. The company was renamed Fetch by The Dodo after pet-focused media brand The Dodo acquired a minority stake.
The health report offer is part of Fetch by The Dodo’s plan to woo millennial and Gen Z pet parents by being a source of information and advice, as well as a provider of insurance coverage.
“When it comes to insurance, and when it comes to pet health and wellness, they want more than just peace of mind. They want information, they want advice, they want tangible facts on how to keep their pet healthy and how to prevent the pet from getting sick in the first place,” Paul Guyardo, President and CEO of Fetch by The Dodo said.
Guyardo describes the free report Fetch by The Dodo will begin providing later this year as “a pet health report on steroids.”
The report, he said, “provides predictions of the illnesses your pet is most pre-disposed to, and more importantly it provides preventative tips and advice to ensure that either the pet doesn’t get the illness at all, or that the impact of the illness is mitigated.”
The free health report is the first offering from a predictive health platform Fetch has been building that it hopes to expand for other uses.
Beginning today, Fetch by The Dodo is letting dog owners get on a waitlist for a health report through a link on its website. The reports will be emailed to participants when the platform becomes available later this year.
Fetch partnered with Dr. Audrey Ruple, associate professor of Quantitative Epidemiology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, and a leading expert in dog epidemiology, to create the predictive platform.
The Fetch database creates many opportunities to predict disease patterns in a vast number of dog breeds, Dr. Ruple said.
“I’m a veterinarian who practices medicine through data,” she said. “Once I started to see the true depth and richness of this data set, it became really clear that there were many applications that would be utilized. It’s a really unique data set.”
Fetch’s insurance claims data set, collected over 16 years, covers hundreds of thousands of dogs, and reflects a representative mix of dogs, not just purebred dogs, located throughout the U.S. and Canada, Dr. Ruple said.
By marrying the data with machine learning and artificial intelligence, Fetch has created a “tool that with a high degree of accuracy can predict health outcomes in all different types of dogs,” she said.
For owners of rare breeds, the report could provide information about health issues their own vets might not be aware of, Dr. Ruple said.
And for owners of common breeds, it can provide advice on problems to watch out for, she said. For example, she entered information about her 6-month-old poodle, and saw that poodle puppies are at higher risk of ingesting foreign objects.
“So that really informs the types of toys I’ve given to my dog. At 6 months old he does not have any of the rope toys or pull toys that could become potential foreign body obstructions for him,” she said. She also saw that her dog was at higher risk for dental disease, which has motivated her to be more proactive about brushing his teeth.
Fetch by The Dodo, along with its new name and partnership with The Dodo, the media company that produces the most-viewed animal videos in the planet, has taken other steps to become more millennial- and Gen Z-friendly.
“For the last several years we have been on a mission to transform this 16-year-old company into something that was poised to capitalize on the explosive growth of the pet care industry,” Guyardo said.
“The bulk of that growth really has been fueled by all of these adoptions of pets during the pandemic, primarily from millennials and Gen Z,” he said,
One of the ways Fetch has set about winning over millennials and Gen Z is by investing millions in tech, Guyardo said. “Everything that used to require an inbound phone call to talk to an agent can now be done in the palm of your hand, on app, on your laptop, through chatbots, or live chat,” he said. “Because that is the way millennials want to do business,” he said.
With the Fetch health report. pet parents can be more aware of potential health problems and “can have a really intelligent conversation with your veterinarian or vet tech professional” about how to prevent them, Guyardo said.
He also sees value in the fact that the report covers under-represented pets. Anyone can talk about the popular breeds “but what about the Skye Terrier, which is on the verge of extinction?,” he said. “We have data on the “Skye Terrier. It’s far more inclusive than anything out there.”
With the Fetch report, “you’re now informed, you’re now educated, you’re now empowered to really care for your pet at a whole different level, which is something we believe is really going to resonate with all pet parents, particularly millennials and Gen Z,” Guyardo said.