By Teresa Garden, DVM
Our lives have been transformed and enhanced by technological wonders over the last several years. Most of us are familiar with the activity tracker Fitbit. Since it is all the rage in the human world, is it any wonder this trend is now extending to the pet marketplace as well? Web and mobile-device based technology can now be used to help people and pets live healthier lives. Even a low tech gal like me recognizes the huge benefits that can be derived from these devices. So I will step out of my comfort zone and try to relay, in a logical manner, what I have learned thus far about this marvelous technology.
ACTIVITY TRACKING DEVICES
Trackers give both veterinarians and pet owners the opportunity to look at objective data gathered by monitoring the pet 24/7. Most of us have wondered at one time or another how our pet is doing when we are at work or trying to get some sleep. Data collected from these devices is extremely helpful in providing a foundation for pet owners and veterinarians to assess symptoms and response to treatment for a variety of conditions. Use of these devises helps bridge the communication gap between people and their pets. Activity trackers help us to better understand what is going on with a particular pet since they can’t always tell us.
Vetrax is a wearable device that attaches to a dog’s existing collar and weighs only 1.5 ounces. It is made by the AGL company and will be marketed directly to veterinarians in 2017. This medical device transmits data directly to the cloud via the pet owner’s wi-fi network. Vetrax provides feedback through a veterinary portal to the veterinary health team and to the pet owner via a mobile app. Vetrax monitors five behaviors: resting, walking, running, shaking, and scratching. The scratching instances are recorded by number and duration. This can help let us know if our treatments for fleas or mange or allergies are helping. Or it can immediately alert the owner their dog is starting to scratch and can then be diagnosed and treated earlier for the problem. Vetrax provides information which can be used to monitor chronic illnesses such as arthritis and obesity. It can help monitor pacing as well as destructive behavior which is useful when treating pets for separation anxiety.
PetPace is a wearable monitor consisting of a collar and sensor that tracks activity patterns and their intensity. It is sold directly to consumers and is appropriate for dogs and cats weighing more than 8 pounds. Data collected by PetPace is provided continuously and is immediately available to the pet owner and the veterinarian. The device can be used within the home, vet clinic, kennel or training facility. PetPace monitors vital signs such as temperature, pulse, and respiration. It logs number of calories burned. It can monitor heart rate variability. It can even identify the position the pet is in. Looking at this data can help us evaluate heart disease, feline asthma, epilepsy, arthritis and treatment programs for obesity. PetPace can also be used to evaluate post-op recovery in the hospital or at home. PetPace is currently partnering with veterinary research teams to provide data on pets with seizures. The goal is to detect seizures before they occur and even to help predict them. PetPace is used all over the world to collect biometrics on pets with various medical conditions. Employing this data can help to elevate the standard of veterinary care in the future.
FitBark is a research-grade dog activity and sleep monitor that weighs just 0.28 ounces and fits on the dog’s existing collar. It is marketed to pet owners and the information can then be shared with the pet’s veterinarian. FitBark records how much time your dog spends at different activity levels. You can get real-time updates at any point throughout the day. The company cooperates with more than 30 research institutions and veterinary schools conducting various clinical studies.
There are numerous companies providing pet-location monitoring products. The devices may be in the form of a dedicated collar or a small apparatus that attaches to your dog’s existing collar. They utilize GPS tracking transmitted via a signal to a dedicated receiver, such as a computer or mobile device. All require some sort of subscription fee. These products allow you to set boundaries and will send you alerts if your dog leaves the designated area. Useful GPS devices to consider include gibi, Eureka Marco Polo, and Whistle.
I believe there is an app for almost anything. There are apps to assist you in finding dog parks, dog kennels, dog beaches, dog walkers, dog hikes, and dog-friendly restaurants and hotels. There are also numerous apps for pet first aid. The apps are easy to use and include life-saving information such as emergency tools and contacts as well as first aid tips. Top-rated apps include PET FIRST AID by the American Red Cross and PET FIRST AID FOR YOUR DOG, CAT, PUPPY, OR KITTEN. These apps also supply information about disaster preparedness, emergency dog-management tools, and medication administration. PUPTOX is a useful app containing information on more than 250 toxins categorized by beverages and liquids, foods and solids, chemicals, plants, and other common hazards.
This burgeoning technology will continue to be developed. The possible clinical applications are awesome. I envision a day when trackers can tell us the water intake and urine output of our diabetic and renal disease patients. Or perhaps, trackers could even monitor glucose and urea levels for these patients continuously throughout the day and night. My wish list is as vast as the moon and stars. Yet, it pales in comparison to the limitless applications of present and future technology.
Dr. Teresa Garden is chief veterinarian/owner of Animal Health &Healing, a full-service holistic and conventional veterinary practice in the Maplewood/Richmond Heights area. 314-781-1738. www.AnimalHealthandHealing.com.