Fitness trackers have gone to the dogs – and cats. Several trackers now exist to measure your pet’s activity throughout the day. Sound a bit over the top? Some veterinarians think these gadgets, worn on your pet’s collar, may help improve weight loss efforts and physical fitness, chronic disease management, and even your relationship with your pet.
“If you put (an activity device) on your dog and monitor it, you pay more attention to your dog, and you potentially have an opportunity to give the dog more attention,” pet researcher Rebecca Johnson, PhD, tells the American Veterinary Medical Association. “I think it could have a potential impact on improving the human-animal bond.”
FitBark ($ 99): According to Canine Journal’s Sara Logan Wilson, this bone-shaped device is the easiest doggie tracker to use. It tracks activity throughout the day and syncs with your iOS or Android device via Bluetooth. Use the device to compare your dog’s activity to others of the same breed to see if she’s in the normal range. You can follow trends over time in order to easily spot changes in behavior, like excessive rest periods that may indicate she’s not feeling well. Best Fitness Tracker Reviews reports that the FitBark will work with cats, though it’s not optimized for them and thus less accurate.
Tagg Pet GPS Plus ($ 79.95, plus a minimum $ 6.95 monthly charge for cellular and GPS service): An activity tracker and locater for both dogs and cats, the Tagg also measures ambient temperatures. Need to leave your dog or cat in the car briefly while you run into a store? Now you’ll know whether your pet is experiencing unhealthy levels of heat or cold. Tagg’s also recently partnered with Alarm.com to link your pet to home automation features. “For example,” writes The Verge’s Nathan Ingraham, “if your dog spends a lot of time outside during the day, your A/C system might not kick in — but when it comes inside, the Alarm.com home monitoring will notice and cool the house down for your pet.”
Pet activity trackers, says Johnson, may also help pet owners better understand their pet’s exercise needs, which could lead to more and/or longer walks for your dog and more time with chasing the red dot pointer for your cat.
“Often, owners are unclear on what is meant by physical exercise—what it means to them may be something different to the vet,” says Johnson. These devices offer “an objective measure they can report back to the vet, and the vet can monitor the physical activity of the animal.”
Are pet trackers truly helpful? More research needs to be done to answer that question. In the meantime, veterinarian Eli Larson, DVM, is skeptical: “They’re a fun toy, but I don’t know how clinically relevant they will be at this time” he tells the AVMA.