Pet Health Intelligence
Using Modern Technology to Understand Your Pet’s Health
HEALTH & PROTECTION
28 Jun, 2022
READ 7 minutes
We live in a world where technology is rapidly evolving and getting more and more personal. Globally, the market for smart home products and wearable products for humans has seen remarkable growth for many years. For the pet owner, today’s technologies are bringing them closer to their pets, allowing them to better care for them. Several research reports have shown that the global market for pet tech products is on the rise, indicating that this is more than just a passing fad.
Although not all the technology that we discuss below may be available in South Africa, we know that it is not in the too distant future that South African pets will also have the opportunity to become better connected with their humans.
WHAT ARE PET OWNERS LOOKING FOR?
For the tech-savvy pet owner, there are a few trends and priorities that appear to be dominating the pet tech market. Safety and knowledge seem to be the main reasons driving pet owners to look to technology for solutions, in addition to finding technological ways to ensure their pets are active, eating and drinking normally, and not lonely when they are home alone. Interestingly, studies show that dog owners have different motivators than cat owners. For example, dog owners report that behaviour is a primary concern that they hope tech devices can solve, while cat owners are more concerned about food and water consumption.
Rest assured, whatever your primary concern is for your pet, dog or cat, there is a technological solution or device on the market to meet your need.
Several products have been available for several years which address pet owners’ concerns for safety, such as microchips, which are an incredibly effective way to help reunite lost pets with owners. In fact, as pet parents are becoming more aware of the benefits of microchip technology, they are becoming even more popular today, despite having been around for a while. There are now microchips that not only identify the pet but also include temperature sensing.
Additional pet tech products that address concerns for safety and security include selective or “smart” pet doors, which are triggered to open using this same identification microchip. Some smart doors can even be controlled via an app that tracks how often the door is used and signal whether the pet is indoors or outdoors. There are also wireless fencing systems, home monitoring devices and GPS collars. Like their counterparts for humans, wearable tech for pets can track behaviour and activity levels including sleep patterns, in addition to pet’s location, to help owners keep an eye on their pet’s behaviour and health.
CONNECTIVITY AND PET CARE
Connectivity in pet care relies on the internet and/or Bluetooth technology, computers, and smartphones, including veterinary telehealth services, app-based non-medical pet care services (such as pet sitting, pet walking and boarding), and digitally connected products such as trackers, monitors, automated feeders, hydration stations and litterboxes. These solutions can help provide pet parents with ways to tackle existing issues as well as identifying emerging ones, or even preventing problems from occurring in the first place. This is done by collecting information about your pet through various technologies such as facial recognition or temperature sensing. The information can be collected by different devices in the same household and give you a better understanding of your pet’s routine and behaviour, enabling you to spot trends and changes easily.
There are many devices on the market that can help you with your pet’s care, entertainment, health, and fitness. Some of these include:
- Remote feeders – Also known as “smart feeders,” these are becoming increasingly popular for those pet owners who want to monitor their pet’s nutrition or control a proper meal schedule for their pets even if they are not home. In fact, automatic feeders use advanced technology which can also help prevent obesity in dogs and cats. They can help monitor both food and water consumption, and in multi-pet households, ensure each pet only gets access to their own food.
- Smart drinking devices – These are especially useful for cats and small dogs. These devices automatically replenish water from a storage reservoir and provide you with insights into your pet’s drinking behaviour so you can identify any trends or changes which might require further investigation. Hydration and fluid intake are very important as your pet ages and significant changes in these can be a key sign of several conditions. Monitoring your pet’s water consumption is a good way to stay on top of his or her general health.
- Pet cameras – While we never want to leave our pets alone for long periods of time, being out and leaving your pet home can be one of the most worrisome aspects of pet ownership. Pet cameras are a great option for keeping an eye on your four-legged friend while you’re out, whether it’s for keeping track of behaviour or simply for peace of mind. Various cameras offer a range of features, including two-way speakers, treat dispensers and audio alerts. These can be especially helpful if you have a pet suffering separation anxiety.
- Fitness & behaviour trackers – Similar to some of the other devices mentioned above, these gadgets provide pet owners a window into their cat or dog’s day-to-day activities, behaviour, and wellbeing. An app alerts pet owners to unusual behaviours such as excessive barking, scratching, and shaking. These devices also monitor sleep patterns and calorie intake, all of which, along with monitoring activity, can be important in assisting you in providing your pet with a better level of care. Having all this information at your fingertips will also enable you to relay any changes to your veterinarian so that he or she can assess issues with as much information as possible.
- Smart pet toys – These toys entertain your cat or dog when you can’t be around, keeping him or her stimulated, content and helping to control feelings of loneliness or boredom, which can lead to bad behaviour. These toys detect movement and touch which activate them, making them bounce, shake, or roll on their own. This gives pets the fun, interactive exercise they crave.
- Companionship – Videos and music players may not be new technologies, but these devices have been shown to help de-stress and calm your pet while you are out. In fact, research has shown that certain music, such as classical music, can have a calming effect on pets and help with anxiety, separation, and noise issues.
While all these new technologies and devices sound exciting, it is important to remember that pet cameras, automatic feeders and smart toys are in no way a replacement for human interaction, which is so important for your dog or cat. These devices are meant to help you if you are out or assist you in understanding your pet’s general health better. It is still crucial that you schedule regular check-ups at the vet even when everything seems to be in order, and that you are around for your pet to give them the physical love and care they need from you in order to live a healthy and happy life.
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