Posted in: Pet Health
By Julio López, DVM, Special to Everyday Health
Technology is changing the ways we interact with our pets, and how we monitor them when we are away. Everything from remote-activated laser pointers, to petcams (cameras to watch over your pet), to electronic health-monitoring collars are now available to pet owners.
Devices like these make it easier to stay connected when you are away from your pet, but they do even more: They could help save your pet’s life in a health emergency.
One of my female cat patients suffered from both kidney failure and heart failure. Her kidney disease treatment took priority, and required giving fluids under the skin (subcutaneously) to keep her hydrated. The difficulty came with the task of carefully balancing this fluid therapy without giving her too much, which could have overtaxed her heart, pushing her into congestive heart failure.
The best way to stay on top of any changes was for the owner to monitor her cat’s breathing rate and effort. Any increase from the usual baseline breathing rate would be taken as a sign that the cat was in early heart failure.
A Lifesaver Petcam Catches Heart Failure Early
Unbeknownst to me, her owner was going above and beyond, monitoring her cat’s breathing from work via a petcam. One afternoon she saw that her cat’s breathing rate had increased, so she left work to bring her beloved pet to the hospital. A radiograph of her cat’s chest confirmed fluid building up in her lungs; she had gone into congestive heart failure.
Luckily for this cat, we caught her heart failure early. She only needed a short overnight hospital stay with minimal medication to help clear the fluid from her lungs. Using less of this medication also helped avoid further kidney-disease complications. Once the fluid cleared from her lungs, we restarted the subcutaneous fluid treatment she needed for her kidneys, but at a reduced amount and frequency. For now, this seems to agree with both her kidneys and her heart.
Her owner continues to track her cat’s breathing, and she can do so from anywhere in the world. It gives the owner peace of mind knowing that she can catch the next change early, instead of coming home to a grave situation.
For this pet owner, technology not only transformed the way that she interacts with her cat, but it also turned out to be a lifesaver.
Caution: Remote-Activated Toys Can Drive Pets Crazy
Thanks to petcams and activity monitors, we are now able to take a glimpse into our pets’ daily routines when we leave them home alone. Now you can finally find out: Did your dog sleep or bark all day? Did the dog-walker session actually last the half-hour you paid for?
Other products, such as remote-activated laser pointers and treat dispensers, allow for continued interaction with your dog or cat even if you are not physically there.
While all this technology may seem positive, it can come with some negative consequences, too. For example, veterinary behaviorists are issuing warnings for laser pointers and remote speakers because they can literally drive your pet crazy.
Playing with a laser pointer triggers the innate drive to catch prey in dogs, but less so in cats. This may lead to behavioral issues because pets can never actually catch what they are chasing. Potential concerns include the development of compulsive behaviors, such as chasing other lights and shadows, or causing self-injury due to over-grooming. And at times, the pet’s frustration turns into aggression, resulting in injury to others’ pets, or even people.
How to Use Pet Tech to Your Animal’s Advantage
We see that some tech devices for pets have the potential to cause medical problems, while others provide a way to monitor them and serve as more than just another way to stay connected.
Here are a few of the ways remote monitoring or toys can enhance your pet’s health:
Activity trackers may alert you to a pet’s trending decrease in activity, which may coincide with a change in health status.
In epileptic pets that you cannot continuously supervise, a monitoring device could show short, erratic spikes in activity that may signify your pet is having a seizure, which will aid in monitoring seizure control.
For those pets that are obese and not active when left alone, remote-controlled toys may help increase their activity level and promote weight loss.
The medical usefulness of pet-health monitoring collars and other devices is just starting to be determined. But it’s good to know that watching your pet from a remote location may just save their life.
Julio López, DVM, DACVIM, is a board-certified specialist in small animal internal medicine and a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. Dr. López practices in Los Angeles and has experience in all aspects of internal medicine with a special interest in diseases of the kidney and bladder, and endocrine diseases such as diabetes, Addison’s, Cushing’s, and hyperthyroidism. He launched www.MyExpertVet.com to provide trustworthy sources of information. Follow him on Twitter @ExpertVet.
PHOTO CREDIT: D.Jiang/Getty Images
COMMENTS FROM LOVINMYPUP.COM:
The updated technology described above gives the pet parent a concrete visualization of your pet’s activity and safety. A camera saved the cat in this story from certain death from Heart Failure.just by owner visualization. I have an activity monitor for my Bella, and I love it. Thr FitBark monitor is worn on her collar and tracks her metabolic actions, play time, calorie and miles walked/run. The pet parent classifies the dogs into 3 levels of activity., .And there is a comparative table to the other dogs in their class. The cameras are great tools to see what your dog does while home alone.And the activity monitors are a peek into your dogs health and activity.
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