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Amazon may offer telehealth for pets to rival Walmart

By Jake Beardslee · October 25, 2023

In brief…

  • Amazon may offer veterinary telehealth to compete with Walmart's new pet care offering.
  • Service would allow virtual vet appointments and expand Amazon's health care business.
  • Comes amid heated competition among retailers in fast-growing pet health market.
  • But telehealth raises concerns about possible risks if used primarily to boost product sales.
  • Amazon lobbying on telemedicine laws but unclear if for human or pet health.
Amazon considers competing with Walmart in expanding into veterinary telehealth.  DALL·E 3/CC

Amazon is considering expanding into veterinary telehealth services, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke to CNBC. This would allow the e-commerce giant to compete with rival Walmart, which began offering telehealth appointments to Walmart+ subscribers through startup Pawp earlier this year.

Amazon already sells pet food and supplies, but has yet to enter the fast-growing pet health market, expected to drive growth in the $137 billion pet industry. Veterinary telehealth allows pet owners to have virtual appointments with vets and vet techs, similar to human telemedicine services. Amazon could partner with Pawp or another telehealth provider, or build its own veterinary telehealth practice like pet retailer Chewy did during the pandemic.

The potential Amazon service could be bundled into its Prime subscription, mirroring Walmart’s move to include Pawp appointments as a perk for Walmart+ members. These types of add-on services help incentivize subscriptions and keep the rival programs competitive.

Veterinary telehealth has grown rapidly out of necessity during the pandemic as a convenient alternative to in-office visits. However, some vets caution it could be risky if used primarily to drive product sales rather than prioritizing animal health. Regulations around what vets can do remotely versus requiring in-person exams have also been a roadblock, sparking lobbying efforts by corporations like Chewy and Mars to change laws. Amazon has also lobbied this year on issues including telemedicine, but it is unclear if for human or pet health.

The pet care market is highly competitive, with retailers expanding into pet health services to drive growth beyond staples like food and toys. Pet health is expected to fuel growth to a $500 billion market by 2030.