The veterinary industry has been slow to catch up on using technology to enhance the welfare of animals, according to the founder of a new pet tech firm.
Paul Hallett, inset, co-founder of Leeds-based Vet-AI, believes that the veterinary sector has seen unsustainable levels of inflation and that vets are suffering from high levels of stress.
Mr Hallett told The Yorkshire Post: “Veterinary inflation has been going up for the last ten years. It’s unsustainable.
“What that means now is that one-in-three pet owners are avoiding the vets because of the price and it’s leading to a bit of an animal welfare issue. This has been evidenced by one of our partners, the PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals).
“What we’re actually seeing because of this is that pet abandonments are at an all-time high.”
The technology entrepreneur added that vets are also reporting high levels of stress.
“They’re underpaid and overworked and there’s a lot of evidence to support that,” Mr Hallett says.
Vet-AI, which was launched in April 2018, is a research and development company that looks to create preventive and predictive solutions for pets, pet owners and vets.
The company has 24 staff and recently took up space at Leeds University’s new innovation hub Nexus. It will be targeting the consultation market first.
Mr Hallett said: “We’ve built an app that is free and it will enable pet owners to enter the symptoms of a dog issue into a triage-based system, which ends with an outcome that is one of four things.
“You either need to go and see a vet in practice, you can save money and do a video consultation with a vet on the phone, it may end up in a product sale or it may end up with us saying, you don’t need to do anything.
“That is probably the most valuable thing for a pet owner to hear.
“The whole triage process has been built by high quality vets. All those algorithms have been generated to basically make the process of decision-making easier and quicker for a pet owner.”
Vet-AI is also hoping to alleviate the stress on vets by providing a platform that gives them the ability to work remotely.
“Think Uber for vets,” says Mr Hallett, “but with better working conditions.”
The co-founder of Vet-AI says that if remote working is possible for doctors then it’s possible for vets too.
Mr Hallett said: “What we’ve done as a company are clinical studies to validate that physical examinations have the same results as remote examinations.
“The study, which we’re sending off for peer review, validates what we’re trying to do.
“Things like dermatology issues in pets, which is a large proportion of the consultation market, are visual assessments not necessarily physical. They align beautifully with our proposition.”
Mr Hallett set the business up alongside Robert Dawson and Sarah Warren, both of whom are vets.
The company also has a base in Salisbury but Mr Hallett says Vet-AI is committed to Leeds and Yorkshire.
“We want to create a global brand from here,” he said. “We think there’s a really good energy here and it’s really exciting for us to grow a business in this region.”
Mr Hallett says artificial intelligence is going to have a big impact in all sectors although it won’t replace vets.
“For the sector we are focusing on, animal healthcare, it will enable us to use groundbreaking technology to diagnose conditions in pets,” he added.