For the super health-conscious among us, monitoring physical activity has never been easier. Just strap a device such as a FitBit or a Fuelband to your wrist, sync it to an app on your phone, and you’re all set. And if your health-consciousness extends to Fluffy and Fido—you’re in luck: The same technology is making it easier than ever to keep a close eye on your pet’s health.
Pet fitness trackers are becoming increasingly common. Given the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention’s estimate that more than 50 percent of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese, this trend couldn’t happen at a more appropriate time.
San Francisco-based Katherine van Ekert, DVM, co-founder of the house call veterinarian service VetPronto, says there is “definitely an emerging market” for wearable pet technology. Van Ekert uses a product called Whistle with her dog, which functions much like a fitness tracker for people. Just attach the device to your dog’s collar, sync it to an app on your phone, and you can keep track of Rover’s activity throughout the day.
Trackers work by collecting specific metrics through non-invasive sensors on the devices, worn either as collars or collar attachments. And like fitness trackers for humans you get what you pay for. Many device are available; from the ultra-simple FitBark, which only tracks when your dog is active and resting, to more robust devices such as Voyce, which records calories burned, distance traveled, heart rate, and even sleep patterns. In order to really keep tabs on your pet’s health you need as much data as possible. If your pet is trying to lose substantial weight or has some health complications that need to be monitored, you would likely benefit more from a higher-end device with more features.
One piece of data van Ekert believes is crucial to collect is resting heart rate. Resting heart rate can indicate whether a pet is healthy or whether there are underlying conditions that might not be easily perceived. The problem, she explains, is that when a pet is at the vet’s office they are often nervous, which increases heart rate and makes it difficult to get an accurate reading in the check-up room. A wearable fitness tracker that monitors heart rate over time could help a vet determine whether your pet’s heart needs to be checked.
The bottom line, van Ekert says, is that just like their human counterparts, pet fitness trackers are not a magic bullet for healthy living. In order to be truly useful they need to collect a host of data to give pet parents and vets a true indication of a pet’s health. While a healthy pet might not have much to gain from the information collected, fitness trackers can take a lot of the guesswork out of caring for older, sick, or overweight pets. Before you shell out the cash, talk to your vet to find out if wearable fitness technology makes sense for your companion.
Whistle collar attachment
($100 + monthly service starting at $6.95/month)
Whistle provides an in-depth perspective on what your pet is up to throughout the day. Track distance traveled and calories burned, set fitness goals, and keep track of medication schedules (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg). Is your dog an escape artist? Consider Whistle’s Tagg GPS Plus Pet Tracker device ($79 + monthly service plan), which attaches to his collar and sends details about location and daily activities straight to your phone.
($199 + $9.50/month service plan)
Little things like changes in breaths per minute or disrupted sleep patterns can indicate a health problem in your pet. Voyce fits directly onto your pet as a collar, where it monitors resting heart and respiratory rate, tracks the length and quality of your dog’s sleep, and provides details on your pet’s daily activities. The more Voyce knows the more it can help you: once it learns your dog’s typical stats, it sends you tips and information specific to her needs.
Tractive MOTION collar attachment
($100 + no monthly fees)
The MOTION pet tracker is great for otherwise healthy dogs and cats who just need to lose a few pounds. Though it doesn’t offer as much data as Whistle and Voyce, MOTION tracks activities like steps and playtime, and allows you to set specific daily goals and see your pet’s progress. Unlike the more comprehensive trackers there is no monthly fee or hardware— just an app on your phone that connects wirelessly to the tracker.