As a first-time dog owner, Chicago entrepreneur John Dillon faced situations that aren’t uncommon with puppies — his dog Patrick once swallowed a chewable treat, on another occasion hit a fence while running, and once just started groaning without any other signs of visible distress.

John Dillon with his dog Patrick

The problem was these instances happened late at night or over the weekend, and Dillon’s frantic calls to his vet simply resulted in two options — either leave a voicemail, or decide for himself if this was worth a trip to the emergency room. Dillon was often left guessing and unable to make an informed decision.

This inspired him to launch his tech platform, GuardianVets, which provides after-hours triage support from qualified, licensed veterinary professionals, and allows animal hospitals to serve their clients after hours. While not intended to be a substitute for a physical visit, it hopes to provide pet owners access to the right care at the right time.

“Pets are family — and just like for any family member, I was surprised at lack of access to information during times of potential medical emergency,” he said in an interview with Chicago Inno. “On the other hand, animal hospitals were clearly losing potential patients when business was closed.”

For the pet owner, the process is the same as any vet consultation — they simply make a phone call to their pet hospital at the time of need and instead of reaching voicemail they are automatically rerouted to the startup’s on-call medical staff, who can help answer questions to determine if they should head to the ER right away, or schedule an appointment with their primary care provider. Dillon says that the startup is careful to ensure these are experienced, practicing vets — and not violating any Veterinary Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR) regulations.

Hospitals, on their end, benefit from improved customer service, additional appointments generated after hours and capturing new clients. The startup’s robust analytics platform records all consultations and provides data on who is calling, when and why — as well as how this impacts the hospitals’ bottom line. GuardianVets also provides support in client outreach, personalization aspects for each hospital, and the entire consultation history for each client who calls.

Since launching in February this year, GuardianVets is focused on pursuing a B2B approach, and has onboarded six hospitals onto the platform (at the time of interview) — thus already serving almost 19,000 pet owners. Dillon is a part of 1871-based Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 cohort and now has a team of 5 doctors of veterinary medicine, vet nurses and developers. GuardianVets is one of a growing number of pet-related startups at 1871 and is actively looking to onboard local vets who hoping to provide 24×7 care to their clients.

Edit: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that GuardianVets covers 23,000 pet owners.

Utsav Gandhi is Chicago Inno's Editorial Intern through August 2017. With experience in technology-based economic development, Utsav is most interested in how the entrepreneurs we cover are shaping the economy and impacting our world. He also particularly enjoys listening to student startup pitches and Will Flanagan's puns. Tips: