Petco expanding vet ultrasound services with Butterfly partnership

From babies to puppies, one health tech company is scaling up services to bring ultrasound services not only to rural sub-Saharan Africa but also to your local Petco veterinary clinic.

Butterfly Network (BFLY) announced a collaboration with Petco (WOOF) that would integrate its Butterfly iQ+ Vet, a handheld single probe imaging system, to help streamline pet diagnoses at more than 200 pet clinics nationally.

Petco sees its partnership with Butterfly as a long-term strategy and a step into greater digital health for vet services.

“We’re on a very aggressive growth path with our veterinary services, especially opening new full service veterinary hospitals,” Dr. Whitney Miller, Petco’s chief veterinarian, told Yahoo Finance in an exclusive interview.

“The pandemic has brought a lot of excitement in the tech space, but it’s also brought a lot of challenges … with supply chain, and rolling out at our scale can be a challenge,” she said.

And Butterfly, a health tech company founded in 2011 and backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is already seeing its product used in various settings in more than 45 locations globally.

“I don’t think it’s a secret that they definitely are a more affordable options than a lot of ultrasound technologies out there,” Miller said.

Darius Shahida, Butterfly’s chief strategy and business development officer, told Yahoo Finance the pandemic has been a catalyst for the company’s growth in the vet business.

“The companion animal market is by far the largest of all the segments in animal health. In the last few years, with the pandemic, the number of pets that have been added to American households is actually in the tens of millions. And, of course, you don’t have tens of millions of veterinarians that are joining the workforce at the same time,” he said.

IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR PETCO – In this image distributed on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, Petco expands pet services offerings to include complete vet care. The pet specialty retailer opened its first in-store veterinary hospital in Aldine, Texas this month. (Paul Ladd/AP Images for Petco)

The company estimates the veterinary ultrasound market to be about a $450 million market and one that is clearly underserved amid the pandemic’s pet boom.

Miller said that the pandemic really changed how pet parents want to access care and talk to their veterinarians.

Butterfly has also made its way into campuses, where medical students are learning how to use the device, Shahida said.

Through Gates Foundation funding, Butterfly has also been able to provide strong use case proof for midwives to perform services, usually limited to bulkier machines by obstetricians, in rural parts of Africa. Shahida sees multiple use case possibilities as Butterfly grows, with the affordability and high-tech functionality of the product makes it even more appealing.

From $2,400 to $2,999, depending on whether for humans or animals, the point-of-care unit is a fraction of the cost of traditional options.

“All of the traditional ultrasound on the market has really been created and engineered as a disconnected device. We can actually focus on the problems we’re solving for different specialties, different practitioners and we can rapidly iterate, innovate and improve our solution. Much like a Tesla (TSLA) can improve its hardware performance through software updates. We’re doing the same thing,” Shahida said.

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