Pet Talk: Activity-health monitors for dogs

Online Exclusive

Fitness and activity monitors have become a useful way for humans to meet their daily health goals. At the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), veterinarians are using activity trackers in the form of a collar, to help keep dogs healthy.

The activity monitors the CVM uses contain technology that can accurately monitor canine patients’ key vital signs and health indicators, such as resting heart rate, resting respiratory rate, quality of rest, amount and level of activity, and expended calories. The monitors can also help identify early indicators of some diseases, such as heart failure and osteoarthritis by alerting the dog’s owner and veterinarian when vital signs and health indicators are abnormal. They can also be used to help monitor disease progression and evaluate the efficacy of therapy in a variety of conditions, such as pain management and weight loss management in obese patients.

“The monitors can provide objective data while the dog is at home, meaning the veterinarian can review data from the dog’s status in its normal habitat, where they are less stressed than when they visit the veterinarian’s office,” said Caitlin Conner, DVM student who is involved in a work-study project with activity monitors. “The monitors are incorporated into a comfortable collar that collect data and display it online via a Wi-Fi connection. Based on the dog’s previous monitor data and the disease status the dog is being monitored for, parameters, such as respiration rate, can be customized by the attending veterinarian for each individual dog. Anytime the monitor recorded data goes outside the customized parameters, the veterinarian caring for the dog and the owner are alerted so that it can be determined if a follow-up appointment is needed.”

Data collected from the monitors can help determine if a treatment plan for a disease is working. For example, the CVM may use the activity monitors to evaluate a dog with heart disease. This evaluation can help better detect early signs of heart disease and prompt timely veterinarian visits to help minimize client and patient stress. These evaluations can also help optimize long term therapy and the dog’s quality of life.

“In dogs with cardias disease or heart failure, the monitors are used to collect data, such as resting heart rate and resting respiratory rate,” Conner explained. “In primary care, the monitors have many potential uses. They can monitor the effectiveness of a pain management plan for the treatment of osteoarthritis by showing if the dog has been more active, is getting adequate uninterrupted rest, or has a lower resting respiratory rate. Each of these findings would typically indicate that a dog is more comfortable. In the case of obesity management, the activity monitors can be used to set goals to achieve more activity as well as to provide the owner with notifications of successfully achieving activity goals.  The monitors can also be used to monitor heartworm treatment plans by ensuring that the dog is undergoing adequate exercise restriction which is a critical part of heartworm therapy.”

In addition, the activity monitors summarize a dog’s data by day, week, and month, making it easy for owners to look for and identify long term changes that could be important clues about a dog’s health status.

“These types of monitors are relatively new in veterinary medicine and have the potential to really help veterinarians work with owners to optimize monitoring of wellness and a variety of disease conditions,” said Dr. Sonya Gordon, associate professor of cardiology at the CVM. “They provide one more way to stay in touch with your veterinarian and optimize your dog’s personal health care goals.” Gordon is currently working with the monitors in clinical studies to evaluate the clinical value of their use in dogs with heart disease and heart failure.

For more information on how activity-health monitors are used at the CVM, contact Dr. Sonya Gordon at sgordon@cvm.tamu.edu.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!