Fitness Technology Goes To The Dogs

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) —  Wearable tech for fitness is a hot trend for humans but new devices hitting the market are meant to monitor man’s best friend.

When Steve Pelletier rescued Jack, the lovable labrador retriever was overweight.

That’s something Steve, who is in the business of canine food and fitness with two wellness websites for dogs, wanted to work on right away.

He put Jack on a diet and exercise regimen, and even outfitted the pooch with a tracker. It collects data about Jack’s daily movement and sends it right to the internet.

“It’s helped us not just check out activity levels, but also monitor things like sleeping patterns and scratching patterns,” said Pelletier.

This new breed of wearable tech devices lets owners keep track of fido’s habits and behavior and alerts them to potential problems.

“Pet owners really want to do right by their pets in terms of their health, they want the best diet, they want the best care. And the wearable technology kind of layers into that mindset,” said Kristen Levine.

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Pet industry expert Kristen Levine uses an activity tracker on her dog Chilly, and says many pet parents want to take care of their dogs the same way they take care of themselves.

“I think this will appeal to people who like technology themselves, appreciate the functionality it offers,” said Levine.

That functionality will go beyond activity tracking in some cases, with products designed to monitor heart and respiratory rates, calories burned, temperature and even control food dispensers.

Veterinarian Steven Budsberg of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention says pet wellness technology can provide owners some insight about their pet’s health, but not necessarily the full picture.

“You can start to get an idea of where they’re moving, for behavioral issues, you know activity levels that may or may not be related to disease process or pain. But they are indirect measures, they don’t tell you exactly what’s going on,” said Dr. Budsberg.

And the professor of animal surgery is not convinced our furry friends need their own wellness trackers.

“I think the risks are simply overwhelming people with information and with data which really is meaningless. People over-diagnosing or overreacting to data about their pet, and vice-versa, under-reacting,” said Dr. Budsberg.

As for Steve, he said the tracker has helped improve Jack’s health, and he is happy about the wearable tech trend spreading to another species.

“We were able to notice that Jack was scratching a lot more than normal and it turns out he had a food allergy. As technology moves from the human body to the pet body, I think that we all ultimately can benefit,” said Pelletier.

If you’re considering an activity tracker to help your dog lose weight, Budsberg points out lifestyle change is important.  Simply cutting down on how much your pet eats and increasing activity levels is a low-tech solution he says works.

Pet wellness is serious business, with Americans expected to fork over upwards of $58 billion in 2014 to take care of their animal companions. Some of the new wearable tech for dogs are hitting the market this fall, and they range in price from about $100 to over $300, plus an additional service fee in some cases.

Heyrex — (This is the tracker Steve Pelletier uses with his dog Jack) – Available now online — tracks activity, sleeping, scratching — $199

TAGG — Available now online — tracks activity, GPS — $99 + monthly subscription

Whistle — Available now online and available in stores only at PetSmart locations — tracks activity — $129

Otto PetCare Systems — Available now – will track activity, dispense food — $388

Voyce — Should be available online sometime this fall – will track activity, rest, heart rate, respiratory rate, calories burned — $299

Pet Pace — Available now in Florida and Massachusetts and should be available online to everyone sometime this fall – will track activity, sleeping, scratching, heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, calories burned — $150 + $15 monthly service fee.

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