Healthcare // Mobile & Wireless
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7/25/2014
01:40 PM
Alison Diana
Alison Diana
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Fit Fido: 10 Apps To Keep Pets Healthy

Pet owners can now choose from an array of apps and gadgets including doggy Fitbits, meal-tracking and training apps, and scheduling tools to care for critters.
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Americans love pets: 68% of American households have an animal in the family. We also love our smartphones: 58% of us own one of these gadgets. Now, thanks to device makers and app developers, we can use those smartphones to help care for our beloved pets.

App developers seem to have noticed that we spend a lot of money to keep those pets healthy and happy. In 2013, consumers spent $55.7 billion on pets, according to the American Pet Products Association. This year, people will spend an estimated $15.25 billion on veterinary care alone, up from $14.37 billion in 2013.

Animal lovers also can access free or inexpensive health information via hundreds of apps related to pet care. Although not designed to replace veterinarians, some apps supply basic medical advice, such as treating burns and cuts or applying bandages. Others include searchable databases to alert owners to poisonous plants or substances.

Research suggests pet ownership improves humans' health. From encouraging people to exercise to reducing stress and blood pressure, a growing number of physician and animal advocacy groups tout the benefits of adopting a pet. Pet owners are also responsible for ensuring the health of their new family member, and mobile health technologies can help four- and two-legged creatures stay in shape and eat well.

Sometimes pet fitness devices serve dual purposes. GPS-equipped collars that track a dog's steps not only tell owners how much he's moved on a given day, but also help locate the animal if he escapes a house or enclosed yard. Cameras installed to help watch pets while an owner is at work also track sitters to make sure they show up as promised.

Some adoption shelters use cameras to provide pets with exercise, increase adoptions, and amuse cats. With iPetCompanion, organizations such as the Welland & District SPCA, the Animal Rescue Site, and Palmetto Lifeline allow users to play with cats using an assortment of remotely operated toys.

Like their owners, however, many pets today are overweight and need more exercise. Several apps track pets' diets (including table scraps) to help owners discover hidden calories and avoid duplicate feedings. Other apps monitor exercise to ensure dogs, in particular, get enough running and walking in their day. There are even apps that replace traditional training tools like whistles and clickers -- although you'll still want to bring along an old tennis ball or Frisbee, unless your dog's mastered your smartphone.

Not everyone owns a dog or cat, and developers offer apps for aquarium and fish owners, horses and goats, and exotic pets such as guinea pigs and ferrets. With suggestions on how to clean tanks or when to get a chinchilla's teeth ground, these apps provide a first round of guidance to pet owners.

Unfortunately, some animal lovers cannot own a pet. With a plethora of pet-ownership games available for iOS and Android, there's no reason not to get a virtual dog, cat, or hamster.

Check out our collection of apps for pet owners. Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.

Alison Diana has written about technology and business for more than 20 years. She was editor, contributors, at Internet Evolution; editor-in-chief of 21st Century IT; and managing editor, sections, at CRN. She has also written for eWeek, Baseline Magazine, Redmond Channel ... View Full Bio

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Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/18/2014 | 12:33:47 PM
Re: Fit Fido: 10 Apps To Keep Pets Healthy
Yes, I think some of these apps are a great way for pet owners, especially new pet owners who haven't had a pet before (or maybe had one type, say a cat, and have added another, like a dog, to the family). Of course, like any healthcare app, these are only suggestions. Sometimes the only way to get good answers is by taking your pet to the vet. However, I love that many medical-oriented apps advise on things like wrapping a bandage or other treatments we can do at home, saving money and time, and in many cases, the trauma of transporting a pet to the vet! (Our cats definitely hate the sight of the cat carrier and know what it means!)
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/18/2014 | 12:31:34 PM
Re: Virtual Whistle
Hey, that's awesome -- and thanks for the information, which I'm sure many other dog owners will appreciate. We have cats these days (too much travel for a dog), and they won't respond to a whistle, other than one will hide behind the couch!
freespiritny25
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freespiritny25,
User Rank: Ninja
8/1/2014 | 4:42:04 PM
Fit Fido: 10 Apps To Keep Pets Healthy
Some of these apps I have used before and they definately saved me a visit to the vet and helped relieve my concerns with my puppy. I think these apps can be useful to pet owners, especially "new" pet owners, amateurs like myself.
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
7/30/2014 | 2:20:48 AM
Re: Virtual Whistle
Thanks Alison
I have tried many of the whistle apps, but none worked.
I was losing hope. Nonetheless, I installed one that you suggested, and... it did work. My dog came right away! I'm very happy about it.

The one I installed was the "Dog Whistle Free" by Professionals
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
7/28/2014 | 5:17:24 PM
Veterinary Apps
Apps designed for veterinarians, not consumers, were pretty amazing. When you think about the multitude of species some vets treat, I'd think having an app on-hand to help would be extremely welcome -- and much faster than looking up answers in a book or even on a website. 
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
7/28/2014 | 9:11:23 AM
Re: Waiting for the most useful app of all
The great thing about shelter adoptions today is all pets come equipped with chips. I know when we adopted Jasmine, her chip was programmed with our name and address. She's a pampered little house cat, but in the cases of sickos who mistreat animals, chips are one way law enforcement can at least track down owners to try and determine what happened to the cat or dog. Of course, chips don't protect these poor animals from being abused, but they can help punish those who hurt them.
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
7/28/2014 | 9:10:46 AM
Re: I can't help but wonder
Along those lines, I wonder if the percentage of overweight pets correlates at all with the percentage of overweight Americans?  Hmmm.....
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
7/28/2014 | 9:09:03 AM
Re: Virtual Whistle
@mak63: I did see many of these apps tended to be for iOS although I tried to find a mix for both platforms. In a search on Google Play, I came across several dog-whistle apps. Being the owner of two cats and zero dogs (and being an iPhone family), I can't attest to how well any of them work but they all appear to have reviews on them. Here's the link: https://play.google.com/store/search?q=dog%20whistle 

They include: Dog Whistle Free - Four stars, 38K+ users --- Dog Whistle - Three stars, 3K+ users --- Dog Whistler - Three stars, 14K+ users. All are free
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
7/28/2014 | 9:04:37 AM
Re: Waiting for the most useful app of all
Or anyone who attempts to dump their pet once it misbehaves or gets beyond the "cute" puppy/kitten stage...
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
7/28/2014 | 9:03:47 AM
Re: I can't help but wonder
That's a good question! But I figure if you're actually getting off the couch to walk Rover, then both you and your pooch are getting exercise. OTOH, if you merely attach one of these devices -- like the collar-tracker -- to your dog, open the back door and let him run around your yard while you watch the game on TV, then your puppy could well end up healthier than you!
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