On the Right Track: Activity Monitors for Pets

Activity trackers are wearable electronic accessories that many individuals use to track their health and help them meet their fitness goals. Though activity trackers are a useful tool for humans looking to improve their well-being, they may also be beneficial to pet owners looking for more insight into the health metrics of their furry friend.

Black and white dog running in field with rope toy in mouth

Dr. Lori Teller, a clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, offers some insight on the benefits and drawbacks of these monitors, as well as whether an activity tracker is right for your pet.

Activity monitors for pets may be able to measure step count, quality of sleep, heart rate, respiration rate, ambient temperature, and the pet’s location via GPS.

“Owners who use their own trackers may find it fun to compare with their pet’s information or use it as motivation to increase their pet’s activity,” Teller said.

Data collected from these activity trackers also can be useful in establishing trends in your pet’s health.

“If a pet has maintained a certain level of activity and then it decreases, that could be reflective of early illness or an injury,” Teller said. “Veterinarians could also use the activity data to measure response to treatment.”

Activity trackers most commonly attach to a pet’s collar.

For accurate data collection, it is essential that the tracker and collar fit correctly. Since some trackers are heavy, a proper fit can also decrease the likelihood that your pet experiences discomfort from wearing the device.

These monitors also may encounter more challenges than their human counterparts.

“Because dogs and cats have four legs and a different walking motion than bipeds, measuring steps in the classical human sense is very difficult,” Teller said. “The technology behind 3D accelerometers (used in pet activity monitors) measures motion instead of steps. This technology is used in research studies and appears to be reliable.”

Though activity trackers for pets provide an innovative method for pet owners to engage with the health of their animal, Teller advises owners to exercise caution in how much trust they place in these devices.

“Owners should determine if an activity tracker will provide them with information that they want or that their veterinarian could use, especially when monitoring chronic conditions or response to treatment plans,” Teller said.

“This is a relatively new area in veterinary medicine, so the data obtained from activity monitors should only be used as one method of assessing your pet’s health,” she said. “Activity monitors do not replace regular veterinary visits and common sense.”

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

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