Frustrated owners of overweight dogs and finicky cats have found a new tool to help regulate their pets' nutrition and exercise—apps and app-based technology. Smartphone and tablet apps abound that track pet activity levels, calorie intake and overall health. Some are also providing data and collecting real-time information for pet owners to share with their veterinarians.
I’ve gathered eight cutting-edge apps that are helping keep pet owners informed, engaged and interested in just what their dogs and cats are eating, and how it directly effects their health.
1. The Fat Dog Diet (thefatdogdiet.com)
The Fat Dog Diet is described as a simple, veterinarian-developed iPhone app designed to safely, effectively and compassionately help dogs lose weight. It works by integrating well-accepted, research-based weight loss methods into a mobile application designed for dog owners and their veterinarians with plenty of community support.
“I designed The Fat Dog Diet iPhone app because over 50% of pets in the US are classified as overweight or obese,” says Dr. Patty Khuly, creator of app. “As such, plenty of companion animal veterinarians—myself included—believe that excess poundage is the most significant pet health issue of our day.”
According to Khuly, it’s hard for veterinarians to provide individualized and easy-to-follow guidelines when calorie counts on dog food and treats are so tough to find on commercial packaging. “But it’s also because the quantity of food and exercise dogs require to achieve weight loss can be challenging to calculate in the context of a time-limited veterinary visit,” she says.
The Fat Dog Diet is more than just a calorie-counting, exercise tracking app, however. Khuly is working with board-certified vet nutritionists, veterinary surgeons and pet rehabilitation specialists to gather enough data to determine whether a mobile application designed for weight loss in dogs can offer dog owners a more effective way to help their dogs lose weight than traditional methods. “It’s not enough to make an app available on iTunes. It’s equally important to determine how well what’s on offer actually delivers,” she explains. “Specifically, I wanted to know how the effectiveness of a mobile application designed for canine weight loss compared to more traditional methods. But first, I had to quantify The Fat Dog App’s efficacy, overall.”
2. Tagg—The Pet Tracker (www.pettracker.com)
Tagg—The Pet Tracker uses advanced GPS and wireless technology to help track a pet’s location and activity using an app compatible with a Mac, iPhone, or iPad. Tagg Activity Tracking can help pet owners determine if their dogs are getting enough exercise and can spot long-term trends so the pet parent can share this data with their vet. Designed for pets weighing more than 10 pounds, the technology package includes Tagg Tracker, Tagg docking station, collar clip assembly, power kit and quick start guide.
3. Whistle Activity Monitor (www.whistle.com)
The Whistle Activity Monitor is an on-collar device that measures activities, including walks, play and rest. Whistle uses information such as weight, age, breed and location to provide insight and trends data on the dog’s day-to-day behavior and health that pet owners can share with their vet. The app can also track changes over time and can compare exercise levels with other dogs of the same breed.
Whistle will support Apple devices operating iOS 6 or greater, with support for Android devices expected soon, followed by a Web application, according to the company. An accelerometer in the device detects motion, helping to determine if the dog is playing, walking or resting. The app also notifies owners of changes in a dog's behavior, such as if it suddenly starts waking up at night.
"What [veterinarians] get today are hyperemotional responses, often driven by one or two anecdotes," says Ben Jacobs, chief executive of the company. "What we found out was that a) vets didn't really have the information they needed and b) there's no breed weight and age standards." Whistle Labs said it is also gathering data about dog activity by breed and weight for research use.
4. Pet Nutrition: Diet and Nutrition for Dogs and Cats
According to Kiwi Objects, makers of the Pet Nutrition app, their technology allows pet parents to precisely monitor the weight evolution of their pets and get specific feeding tips depending on the animal’s health status. It features a library of veterinary tips and facts regarding general points on dog and cat nutrition, a list of toxic food for companion animals and more specialized sections on healthy, sick, pregnant and nursing pets. The app manages two food types: an industrial diet (dry or canned food) and a homemade diet.
The application allows pet parents who prefer to prepare their pets' meals themselves to select appropriate amounts of proteins, fibers and source of carbohydrate. Homemade petfood makers are also alerted to the amount of each selected component and the quantity of calcium and phosphorus the pet owners should add as a dietary supplement and warnings if the food isn't appropriate.
5. Dogs Nutrition Calculator: Puppies and Dog Training Food Health Guide
6. Cats Nutrition Calculator : Kittens and Cat Training Food Health Guide
The Dog and Cat Nutrition Calculators estimate the proper serving size for pets based upon a scientific study published by a respected veterinary research institute, claim the app’s makers. The app also estimates the daily or monthly cost for petfood, the standard ideal adult weight for specific cat and dog breeds, and the protein, carbohydrate and fat ratios suitable for their diet. App and Away Studios LLP, who make both nutrition apps, have also released Rabbit & Bunny Nutrition Calculator: Rabbits, Bunnies, Mice, Hamsters, Guinea-Pigs, Ferrets, Chinchillas, Gerbils Health Guide, available on iTunes.
7. Petmobi (www.petmobi.com)
Petmobi is a pet social network and a nutrition and exercise calorie tracker for dogs and cats that rewards pet owners for keeping their pets healthy. Developed with veterinarians, the app helps owners set their pet's weight loss or maintenance goals, track daily calorie intake from thousands of petfoods, record exercise and track progress over time. Pet parents can also share photos, post status updates, connect with friends and earn rewards such as coupons and gift cards with mPoints.
8. Cat & Dog Food Diet Calculator (catnews.org)
This Android app was developed for cat or dogs that need to lose weight, have diabetes or are battling cancer, according to the developers. This free app lets pet owners easily determine the carbohydrates and calories for a particular cat or dog food. According to the app creators, giving pet owners the ability to not only track calories, but carbohydrates, as well, is key in helping pets recover from illness and lose weight.