Pet trick: How a diagnostic lab for pets fashioned itself into a retail brand

MySimplePetLab started with home-test products and is expanding into wellness treatments.
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· 4 min read

Lab tests that reveal whether or not your dachshund Buster has tapeworms have historically been far removed from consumers. Your vet asks for a stool sample, which you awkwardly procure from Buster and deliver to the office, and the vet orders the test and bills you.

But a startup, MySimplePetLab, is out to change all that. It sells test kits for dogs and cats directly to consumers from its own website, or online through Amazon or Walmart. They retail for $100. After users send in samples (tests for problem ears and skin involve swabbing), the company emails the results to both pet owners and their vets.

Now MySimplePetLab, which began in 2019, is expanding, with care kits that treat ailments rather than diagnose them. Packaged in zippered nylon bags that resemble Dopp kits, they contain multiple products to address a single issue, like irritated ears, itchy skin, or diarrhea. The company said it will launch the care kits, which retail for $40, on Target’s website within 30 days, with plans to stock them at more than 500 Target locations in the fall. The care kits are just for dogs, but the company said it plans to introduce cat kits—not to be confused with Kit Kats—in the future.

The products are rolling out amid a surge in pet ownership and a shortage of veterinarians.

  • Nearly one in five households in the US (23 million) adopted a pet during the pandemic, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
  • By 2030, there will be a shortage of nearly 15,000 veterinarians below what would be necessary to meet US pet healthcare needs, according to a Mars Veterinary Health study.

Jen Hagness, CEO of MySimplePetLab, said as it grows difficult to book appointments with veterinarians, consumers are increasingly seeking more pet-health products from retailers.

“Where we’re seeing the market moving to—because of some of the access-to-care gaps and not being able to get into the veterinarian—is pet parents are looking to the shelf,” Hagness told Retail Brew.

Well, well, well: Whether it’s because it’s harder to get a vet appointment or just the urge to lavish as much care on pets as children, the pet health and wellness category has been unleashed.

  • Petco’s Vital Care, a health and wellness plan that costs $19.99 a month, was launched in 2020, and grew 42% YoY in Q3 of 2022, to 400,000 members.
  • Chewy launched a pet telehealth feature on its website, Connect with a Vet, in 2020.

Stools of the trade: Hagness said that MySimplePetLab is the first consumer-facing testing kit for pet health, but tests for Bella’s DNA have been around for a while:

  • Mars Veterinary launched Wisdom MX, a breed test for the consumer market, in 2007.
  • Other popular dog DNA tests today include Embark, DNA My Dog, and Orivet.
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“We didn’t start in DNA,” Hagness said. “We started in general wellness tests that are done every day in a clinic in the categories that pet parents need the most.”

Plus, you only need to test Fluffy once to find out she’s 27% shih tzu, but vets require fecal parasite tests for dogs as often as twice a year, Hagness noted. (The company’s only tests that aren’t tied to ailments are routine stool tests for cats and dogs that are part of annual vet visits.) And once you buy a test from MySimplePetLab, the company reminds you via email of routine tests you could have on hand.

An email from the company might say, “‘Hey, we know allergy season is right around the corner. Make sure that you’ve got a test or a care kit on hand,’” Hagness said. “There are lots of different ways that we can communicate with pet parents today with the goal of really making them feel smart and empowered and getting ahead of those pet concerns.”

Starting from scratch: As for how the new care kits will dovetail with the brand’s flagship test kits, Hagness said inflation may play a role.

“It’s a lower price point and they want to see if ultimately, through the use of some of these products, they can treat the pet from home without having to do a test,” Hagness said. “And if their symptoms continue, then they may ultimately buy a test or they may reach out to their veterinarian.”

Eventually, Hagness said, as more people take diagnostic testing for their pets into their own hands, and those results automatically get shared with vets, it may mean making fewer appointments.

“As virtual care continues to grow, more veterinarians are going to say, ‘I’ll treat you from home if we’ve got a relationship already in place,’” she said. “You may not need to actually physically go into the vet for every single appointment.”

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Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.