Pets and Technology

By: Dr. Matthew Goetz

pet technologyI share my house with seven cats, two dogs and a Guinea Pig, and I love them all dearly, so I am always searching for more ways to keep in touch with them and more ways to enhance their lives.

Today it seems like everything from door locks to our cars can integrate with our smart phone, tablets and computers. Now you can even use technology to interact with your pets!  My interest in technology comes naturally to me. From a very young age, I was always fascinated by computers to the point of earning money doing web design before any software existed for it (so you had to write lines of code), so I’m always interested in new computer applications and technologies. Recently, several different products have come on the market, and I have put together a basic list of interesting pet-related products that are available.  I am not recommending anything directly, but I did find some products that I think could be very useful, while others are for entertainment purposes only. 

There are a lot of products that humans can use to monitor our daily activity and exercise, but there are several products that do this for dogs as well.  Whistle™ is a small sensor that goes on your dog's collar and allows you to monitor activity level (running, walking, resting/sleeping) using an app on your smart phone.  Of course, it also integrates with social media so you can share your dog's activity with your friends.  Tagg™ is a similar product, but it goes one step further and allows you to track your dog using GPS location.  You can also set alerts to let you know if Fido has decided that he wanted to take himself for a walk around the neighborhood. 

pet technologyThere are two new products that have been developed but are still in the production phase (thanks to funding from Kickstarter and Crowdfunding), so they are not shipping at this point. I thought they were both pretty interesting ideas, especially because you can use them with cats and dogs.  The first one, Petcube™, is a small aluminum box (4x4x4 inches) that has a camera, microphone, speaker and low-intensity laser pointer inside.  You (or other trusted friends and family), can use your smart phone to access the Petcube™ and interact with your pet when you are not at home.  You can play with your pet with the laser pointer, and can take and post videos and photos to your social media pages.  PetziConnect™ is a similar product to the Petcube™, but instead of having a laser pointer to play with your pet, you are able to pre-fill the PetziConnect™ with treats before leaving and then dispense one treat at a time through the day. 

Home automation is something that is becoming more and more common today.  One thing I have recommended to several of my clients is purchasing an inexpensive webcam or other camera that integrates with your smart phone so you can check-in on your pets during the day.  I have several clients bring their pets into me for “strange activity, possible seizure, weird cough,” etc., but when they get in to see me, the behavior is no longer occurring.  If at all possible, use your smart phone or a webcam to capture a video of this behavior prior to bringing the pet in. That way we can all see what is happening which help us in making our diagnosis. 

pet technologyFinally, there are several apps that you can find for any number of smart phones that are either free or very low cost.  One of my cats loves to play "Cat Fishing" on my tablet.  With this app, fish appear to swim on the screen of my tablet, but when he touches one with his paw, it will appear to dive down into the water.  The important thing with this type of game is to always remember to give your cat a treat or two after the game because it can be overwhelmingly frustrating for a cat to never “catch” their prey.  There are several other apps available that follow the same concept, both for cats and dogs. 

There are other simple “app-less” things that that you can do to help your pet with your smart phone or computer.  You can connect to your pet’s reminder history through Animal Hospital of North Asheville’s Pet Portal, use your calendar or alarm to remind you when to give important medications such as monthly heartworm prevention, and access all of the articles, blog entries and newsletter archives at our website, www.ahna.net.  Have fun with the digital world of pet products; the sky is the limit!