Whether it’s smartphones, activity trackers or connected cars, technology makes our lives easier, faster and more fun. It’s no wonder pet tech products are growing in popularity — and becoming more advanced by the minute. From activity trackers and GPS homing devices, to smart feeders and even a noise-canceling crate, pet tech products can help you monitor your dog’s health, feed him when you’re away from the house and more.
Self-monitoring smart collars
Activity trackers are commonplace in the human world and, as is often the case, the trend has extended to the pet marketplace. The most basic wearable devices simply track a dog’s activity. Some, like the Whistle GO GPS Pet Tracker ($99.95 with a monitoring fee starting at $6.95/month) also track more specific behaviors like licking and sleeping, provide activity reports and offer real-time GPS tracking so you can find your dog if he becomes lost. Most devices require a monthly monitoring fee, which gives you access to your pup’s data through an app.
“The GPS locating capability of wearable pet activity and health monitors is the most compelling attribute for the safety of all of our pets,” says Travis Taylor, DVM, medical director of VCA Centreville Animal Hospital in Centreville, Virginia. “This technology takes the next step beyond previous microchip ID technology. The microchip still remains a crucial component of pets as the wearable technology can become dislodged.”
According to Felix Duerr, DrMedVet, MS, Dipl. ACVS-SA,Dipl. ECVS, Dipl. ACVSMR, assistant professor of small animal orthopedics and sports medicine at Colorado State University, one of the most common uses for smart collars is to track weight loss — such devices can monitor a dog’s daily exercise the same way people use a Fitbit to track their steps.
“I think this is where the technology is quite useful,” Dr. Duerr says. “These devices give you some form of activity, whether it’s points or minutes or stars. They motivate the owner, so they can see if they’re making progress.”
But smart collars can do much more than track exercise. “There are devices that measure how much a dog scratches, to determine if an allergy medication is working,” says Dr. Duerr, who uses activity-tracking devices in his research. “There are some devices that are working on detecting seizure activity. Some devices are looking at which position the animal is lying in.”
One of the more spendy smart collars, PetPace ($159.95 to $349.95) tracks basic activity patterns, and also monitors vital signs (temperature, pulse and respiration), identifies the position of your dog, tracks calories burned and monitors heart rate variability. PetPace is ideal if you want to keep a close eye on your dog’s vital signs, perhaps if he is recovering from surgery or an illness, or suffers from a chronic health condition.
Automatic feeders have come a long way from the old-school gravity-controlled versions that simply allowed more food to spill out as the pet consumed food from the dish. For instance, Petnet’s SmartFeeder ($149) can be pre-programed via an app to automatically deliver specific portions at scheduled mealtimes. The feeder alerts you when the pet has been fed and prompts you to reorder food when inventory is getting low. You can even ask Amazon’s Alexa to feed your pet.
“Smart feeders certainly have their place and can be great tools for helping pets with weight loss or providing a more concise way to allocate feedings for pets who are being housesat while their owners are away,” Dr. Taylor says. “It is important to make sure that pets have time to acclimate to the feeder before putting it into use while you are away. The downside of automatic feeders is they take away a component of human-animal interaction.”
Smart pet doors
If your dog needs to go out frequently (for instance, an older dog or a diabetic dog), but you’re worried about wild animals sneaking through a pet door or if you want to keep other pets inside, a smart pet door is the answer.
Many pet doors use sensor technology to let only your pet in and out, but Sure PetCare has taken it a step further with its SureFlap Microchip Pet Door ($224) for small to medium-sized dogs, which scans your pet’s microchip to allow in-and-out access while blocking out unwanted wild animals and strays, or keeping certain family pets inside. The door can store multiple pet identities and offers different modes, including curfew mode (set to lock and unlock at specified times), manual lock (prevents your pet from leaving or entering the house) and in-only (allows your dog to come in but not out again). The SureFlap works with all microchips and also comes with a lightweight RFID tag to be used for pets who don’t have microchips.
All of Sure PetCare’s fleet of pet tech products — SureFlap pet doors, SureFeed smart feeders ($179.99) and Animo activity monitor ($89.60) — can be linked via their “hub,” and all information about the pet can be accessed via an app.
“Technology can give detailed insights of what is unique to the dog,” says Clare Fuller, senior marketing manager for Sure PetCare. “Using the Sure PetCare app, owners can see a variety of behavioral patterns from how often, how much and when their pet eats through to their activity, sleep and changes in scratching, shaking and barking.”
Future of pet health tech
Pet tech is growing all the time, and innovations are not limited to just pet companies. Ford has developed a prototype of a noise-canceling dog crate that aims to soothe dogs who are terrified of loud sounds like thunder or fireworks. The crate is sound-proofed with high-density cork walls, and an audio system emits opposing sound frequencies to dampen offending sounds outside the crate. It’s a creative take on the same technology that provides a quiet and peaceful driving experience in the company’s SUVs.
When tech meets pet, the results are limitless.
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