BluePearl reports link increased veterinary visits to COVID-19

February 23, 2021
dvm360 Staff

The corporate hospital chain has released 2 reports focusing on changes in pet ownership and veterinary care resulting from the pandemic.

BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital has released 2 reports outlining how the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has affected pet ownership and veterinary practices in the United States. The first report, based on input from 654 BluePearl practices, examines the ways in which veterinary hospitals have been affected by the pandemic. The second, based on a survey of 39,000 BluePearl clients, details the evolution of pet ownership during COVID-19. Surveys were completed in August and September 2020.

Veterinarian report

According to Changes, Challenges, and the Coronavirus: BluePearl Pet Hospital’s 2020 Veterinarian Report, about 1.1 million pets were seen at BluePearl practices 2020—an increase of more than 200,000 over 2019 numbers. Of those 1.1 million pets, 660,000 were first-time patients. Practices also reported seeing 10 times as many as young pets (< 1 year) in 2020 as they did in 2019—clear confirmation of the increase in pandemic pet adoptions, specifically of puppies and kittens.

“As pet ownership continues to increase—with more and more people realizing the benefits of the human-animal bond—the demand for veterinary services is rising. As a result, we, as an industry, have been compelled to transform our patient accessibility options, which includes utilizing telehealth to meet patients where they are,” says BluePearl’s Chief Medical Officer James Barr, DVM, DACVECC, in this press release.

BluePearl also noticed a shift in the types of care provided by their veterinarians. Almost half of the respondents reported seeing more cases of unusual illnesses, vomiting/diarrhea, behavioral issues, and injuries resulting from outdoor activities such as hiking or playing at dog parks in 2020. Practices also reported increases in lapsed pets returning with serious or chronic illnesses resulting from delayed or missed care.

The greatest pandemic-related challenges reported by the veterinarians surveyed were safety protocols (54%), increased patient volume (51%), staff safety and well-being (37%), poor client communication (26%), and staff retention (14%).

Pet owner report

Full House: People and Pets in the Pandemic: BluePearl Pet Hospital’s 2020 Pet Owner Report assimilates 39,000 survey responses from pet owners about their experiences during COVID-19.

Here is what they found:

  • The majority of pet owners (59%) are working remotely and expect to do so for another year or longer.
  • 84% of owners report that their pet provides them with companionship and comfort.
  • Owners are paying more attention to their pet’s health needs (69%) and daily habits (49%).
  • 79% of owners report that they are likely to seek veterinary care when something seems off with their pet.

A majority (77%) of respondents reported taking their pet to a veterinarian within the previous 3 months. The top 5 reasons were illness (23%), chronic concerns (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, 1 in 5 multipet households has added another pet over the past several months, and this is expected to continue. “With many pet owners planning to adopt another pet in the future, the veterinary community may see steady or increased patient loads and prolonged challenges throughout 2021,” he says.

To learn more and view the complete reports, visit the BluePearl website.