Wondering how old is your pet? EpiPaws can help and more pet-health innovation is on the way

By Krysten Brenlla

Our pets make the best furry companions – whether we are looking for cuddles, a playmate, an Instagram selfie partner, or a best friend.

As of 2023, more than 86 million households in the United States own a pet, according to a recent Forbes article. However, 38 percent of dog owners and 40 percent of cat owners in the United States got their pets from an animal shelter or rescue, making it difficult to know the pet’s age, their medical background, and other important details that may affect a pet’s health.

South Florida entrepreneur Andria Beal understands the importance of knowing an animal’s age and their genetic markers for their health and overall wellbeing. As a pet owner herself and a PhD graduate from Florida International University, she studied epigenetics – the study of how behaviors and the environment can cause changes that affect the way genes work without changing the DNA sequence – in sharks and dolphins.

 “At the time, I was looking to do marine conservation, and throughout my time at FIU, I really fell in love with epigenetics and finding out age in animals using epigenetics,” Beal said. “That’s how the idea for the company really got started.”

As her research unfolded, Beal found that although genetic kits for pets were available, there was nothing in the market for pet owners to find out their pet’s real age.

“I started digging into how many people have unknown pets and would need a test like this, but it didn’t exist,” Beal said. “It was an eye-opening moment, and I realized there’s huge potential and a big market for it.”

EpiPaws exhibits at Woofstock event in Sunrise.

EpiPaws is born

Founded by Beal in 2022, EpiPaws is a pet age test kit that can help determine a pet’s estimated birthday with a quick oral cheek swab and epigenetic research. Once the pet’s age is determined, the Fort Lauderdale-based startup can offer nutritional tips, behavior insights, and other important health information based on the pet’s life stage.

“Genetic health is very important; it’s the underlying base code that determines everything about an organism,” Beal said. “When you develop a disease, there’s a pattern in your gene expression and how things in your body are working. Through EpiPaws, we hope to capture any pattern changes earlier, and let pet owners know beforehand.”

With current genetic testing kits in the market, pet owners can find out the genes of their pets and their potential health issues, which can help owners monitor their pet’s health throughout their lifetime to avoid issues.

However, with EpiPaws’ technology, pet owners can look at their pet’s health in real-time.

“EpiPaws is different because we use epigenetics to tell owners that their pet is developing, or has developed, for example, cancer, in real-time,” Beal explained.

Currently, EpiPaws charges $120 for the pet age test, which can be ordered on EpiPaws.com or Amazon. In the mail, pet owners receive a swab for their pet, and once they send the oral swab back (using the provided return label), pet owners receive their results – which include their pet’s birthday, along with other insights – in 6-8 weeks.

Getting help

This year, EpiPaws was one of five companies across the United States and Canada to win Purina’s 2023 Pet Care Innovation Prize. They received $25,000 in funds, mentorship from the Pet Care Innovation Team, and participated in an accelerator program at Purina’s headquarters in Missouri, which featured pet experts from Purina and across the industry. Additionally, EpiPaws also participated in this year’s eMerge Americas conference as part of the Startup Showcase, and Nova Southeastern University Levan Center’s Incubate program. Currently, EpiPaws is a participant in Florida Atlantic University’s Tech Runway.

For now, EpiPaws is hoping to raise upwards of $200,000, with hopes of launching their second product, the health biomarker test.

“With the health biomarker test, a pet owner can get a snapshot of their pet’s health from one test, however, it does paint an interesting and more informative picture if multiple tests are performed over the course of a year,” Beal said. “For our research and development of this test, we are asking research participants to try to commit to several samples within a year’s timeframe. We want to tell people that, right now, your pet has a health problem,” Beal said.

For the future, in addition to the health biomarker test, EpiPaws is looking to offer epigenetic testing on horses, which, according to Beal, will be launching soon. And, EpiPaws is also conducting research to discover how pet food, diet, and nutrition affects a pet’s age.

“There’s a huge opportunity to better the life of our pets by just feeding them better,” Beal said. “We’ve already seen from epigenetic science that you can change a pet’s age rate through food and exercise alone, so we’re partnering with different food companies like Purina and Hills Nutrition to get a better handle on biological markers.”

Beal, a North Carolina native, says South Florida is the best community for her to grow her company while connecting with other entrepreneurs and mentors along the way.

“I think location plays a big role, because being over here and having all these resources has been great,” Beal said. “As an entrepreneur, it’s been a challenge, but when you get those little wins – it’s a good feeling.”

EpiPaws founder Andria Beal participated in the eMerge Americas Startup Showcase.

For more information on EpiPaws, visit their website at https://www.epipaws.com/.

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Krysten Brenlla