Health technologies boom has been apparent for the past couple of years and became even more apparent during and after the pandemic. Health apps, remote monitoring tools, health wearables ― the use of everything digital and health-related has skyrocketed. People got used to counting their steps, calories, glucose levels, mental health exercises, or whatever each particular individual has been working on. Everything from workout plan generators to water bottles that alert you to drink more became a part of our lives. We routinely analyze the results, aiming to get better at health and lifestyle.
The explosion in pet healthcare technology came straight after the human health technology boom. Pet owners quickly realized that health problems their pets experience are often similar to those of humans, and hence, could be prevented or treated with similar digital methods. Pets suffering from issues related to being overweight got dietary and exercise tools, diabetic pets got diabetes devices, and every cat, dog, rabbit, and chinchilla got their electronic medical record, just like we did.
In this article, we’ll talk about pet healthcare in a more detailed way, analyze the best tools for pet healthcare, and discuss what the future of pet healthcare holds.
Is pet healthcare a niche category?
You may assume that pet healthcare is something only a tiny ( and dreadfully wealthy?) group of people could be interested in. This isn’t the case. And here’s why: people love their pets. 90% of pet owners say their pet is part of their family. Apparently, people care more about their pets than they care about other humans (can you blame them?), and 33% evidently prefer dogs over lovers even on Valentine’s day.
Just as importantly, billions of people all over the world have pets. In the US, two out of three households have pets. Pet adoption has always been popular and experienced a serious boost during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. During the lockdown and social isolation, people felt lonelier, had more time to care for pets, hence adopted more. And unlike some other hobbies they acquired (remember the banana bread moment, anyone?), pets are an actual long-term commitment that’s not going anywhere.
In the U.S., the pet industry is estimated to grow to $103.6 billion this year, which constitutes a 5.8% growth. This is much higher than the historical average of 3 to 4$. Globally, the pet care market is estimated to grow from $216 billion in 2020 to $232 billion in 2021.
What can digital technology do for pets’ health?
Diet and exercise
Obesity isn’t just a growing problem for people. For pets, this problem is also very real. A recent study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that 55.8% of dogs and 59.5% of cats in the US are overweight. While it may seem harmless, extra weight can be very damaging for pets’ health, and cause various conditions from inflammation to heart disease. Just as it is for humans, the best way to lose weight for pets is to change their diet and their exercise routine. And technology can help the owners get insights and track the progress.
For example, using canine activity trackers, such as FitBark and Whistle, pet owners can see how active their dog is and how she compares to other dogs of similar size, age, and breed. Pet owners get updates on their apps, analytics, and advice. Additionally, these devices have GPS, which is a good bonus. You can link your Fitbit, Apple Watch, HealthKit, or Google Fit device and monitor progress together. Who knows, maybe an activity tracker for your dog will motivate you to keep up with their level of activity? In addition to that, trackers remind you daily about exercise, walking, and pee-outings that your dogs have to take, ensuring they get enough exercise.
When it comes to diet, apps such as Barfastic, tailor a specific menu for a pet based on the species, age, weight, and other parameters. They calculate how many calories the pet has to take, and then calculate how much they actually take when you enter the data.
Online medical records now allow pet owners to track vaccination frequency, while apps alert pet owners when new vaccination is needed by their pet. They also help you stay on top with your animal care duties by scheduling reminders for different hygiene-related appointments and keeping your veterinary prescriptions and other important pet healthcare-related documents.
If your pet suffers from a chronic disease, there is a lot of information to keep track of and a lot of care to do. Just like with humans, technology has recently evolved to simplify the process as much as possible. With apps like 11pets, you can manage pet medications by logging and setting reminders for medications. Pet wearables have also entered the scene and are allowing veterinarians and pet families to track health metrics in order to manage chronic illnesses. For example, for animals suffering from diabetes, there are diabetes devices that monitor a pet’s blood glucose level at home without them having to come back to the hospital for multiple blood draws. Continuous blood glucose monitoring that’s performed by diabetes wearables can also be read with a smartphone and sent to the clinician automatically.
Telemedicine for pets
Visiting a vet became a real challenge during the pandemic, and telecommunications software came to the rescue. The lockdown times are over, but pet telemedicine services are here to stay. Not every problem requires an offline veterinarian visit, and holding your pet in front of a laptop camera while chatting is much cheaper and often, although not always, more convenient. Today, there is plenty of telecommunications software that offer such services: TeleVet, Ask Veterinarian Online, PetDesk, and others.
Best tools for pet healthcare: top 3
For the list of the top 3 best pet healthcare tools, we chose the ones that bring about a number of benefits described above. These are our picks:
Whistle is a smart pet collar for dogs that sets fitness goals based on breed, age, and weight. You can track their levels of activity, see distance traveled, minutes active, and serve the food portions best for their measurements. The collar monitors common dog behaviors, such as increased scratching, drinking, licking, and sleep disruptions. These behaviors can signify allergies or infection, diabetes or kidney disease, pain, and sleep disorders respectively. The app connected to the collar allows you to celebrate and share achievements with your peers, as well as share health reports with your vet.
11 Pets is a platform that simplifies everyday pet healthcare, especially for pets struggling with chronic illnesses. It sets reminders for everything related to caring for your pets: vaccinations, medications, visits to the veterinarian, and so on. It keeps electronic medical records about your pet, acts as a platform for keeping a food diary and behavior notes. You can log in measurements of your pet and see how they evolve over time ― the app will send you notifications when your pet is outside the healthy range.
You can also share all the information about your pet with your veterinarian or your caregiver and book an appointment with the vet using the app.
Pet pace is a smart collar for cats and dogs. It monitors temperature, pulse, respiration, heart rate variability, as well as activity levels, calories burnt, and positions for pain identifications. The tool analyzes the data and notifies the owner or the vet via app notifications if something is wrong. The tool makes it easy to detect issues in time, simplifies medical care by providing the vet with the data to base their decisions on, and tracks if the pet gets enough exercise and follows a healthy diet. The app is best suited for older pets and pets that suffer from chronic diseases.
What does the future of pet healthtech hold?
Clearly, pet health technology is at the beginning of its journey. Many tools are yet to come, and we can expect the pet healthtech market to one day become as rich and diverse as the market of human health technology.
At the moment, there is one direction in pet healthcare that seems particularly promising: the mental health of pets. Unlike humans, pets can’t talk to the therapist or fill out a questionnaire, which makes their mental health problems unnoticeable for pet owners. More and more devices strive to assess pets’ moods and detect anxiety and depression in pets. For example, Petpuls’ smart collar uses voice recognition technology (bark analysis) to assess emotional states in dogs, while
Other tools focus on delivering help for pets that feel lonely, depressed, and anxious. The app recently released by Pooch & Mutt includes 20 hours of separation anxiety music to help the dog stay calm when it is left alone. The app also has yoga sessions for owners and their dogs ― thirty minutes of dog-friendly asanas! ― to keep you and your pet healthy. It also boasts more features that are yet to be proven to work.
Generally, in the nearest future, we can expect apps and wearables that improve our understanding of pets, improve the connection we have with them, and promote and deliver a healthy and active lifestyle for both the pet and the owner.