The world of telemedicine and fitness smartwatches has finally reached the world of animal care in our homes. When we look at animal care for owners it breaks down to two areas: Safety and health. Collars have evolved in functionality to help pet owners with safety and health concerns. This article introduces you to available collars in both categories.
In this category there are 3 different safety concerns addressed through wearable collars: Identity/awareness using identification collars, obedience/containment using shock collars, and location using navigational/GPS collars.
Identification collars help identify pets or create an awareness of a pet's presence when outdoors being walked or roaming.
For safety which is about immediate identification and awareness, collars are of the utmost of importance. Collars with contact information such as embroidered collars, are simple and inexpensive and should be looked at the bare minimum to have on your pet. LED Collars create awareness at night and allow an additional layer of safety when out with your pet at dusk.
Consider a microchip as a permanent marker used for identification. The chip must be scanned at an animal shelter or vet clinic. The Microchip is the only way, other than DNA testing if you know the parents, to positively identify a pet and prove ownership.
There are technically 3 different types or uses of shock collars: Boundary collars which are really invisible fencing; remote controlled collars which emit a beep or vibrate or shock the pet via a remote that the handler holds; and bark collars which either vibrate or shock in response to the animal barking. So reading through the literature the collars that seem to come out on top were the Sport Dog, Pet Safe, Dogwidgets, Epica, Petiner, and Dog Training Collar.
As a veterinarian who feels strongly about positive re-enforcement, the use of negative stimuli to achieve an outcome should always be used as a last resort and only by professionals who understand the negatives attached to the improper use of negative re-enforcement.
In this category there are GPS and radio frequency collars. So needs must be considered when choosing between radio and GPS. You need access to cell towers for GPS so when camping in the wilderness or when hunting in the woods one should move towards radio. There are also monthly fees for GPS collars whereas radio frequency collars are more expensive to buy but with no additional fees. GPS collars offer other functions such as training tools and monitoring activity and health parameters. These add-on functions are important when choosing what you are looking for in a collar.
In this category of collars there are the fitness collars and the true health collars. The fitness collars such as the Petkit Fit P2 and the FitBark, encompass those that track activity and those that track activity and have GPS. The different activity parameters, how they are delivered and how well they link with mobile phones, are the variables that the user needs to decide on when choosing.
These two collars monitor activity and do not have GPS, so no monthly fees. All the collars in the GPS category above also monitor activities of some sort.
True health collars such as Voyce and PetPace, for me as a veterinarian create the most intrigue and excitement when trying to diagnose and assess health issues to help our patients earlier in the course of disease.
The problem is how the companies designing these innovative products monetize innovation and evolution. The present route to growth is through the recommendation and participation of veterinarians. This process is flawed because the monitoring of data at present is time consuming and this new technology creates a shift in how we as professionals function. The products through the design of better apps will create intelligence that vets will be forced not to ignore and at this point the Voyce and Pet Pace vision will evolve.
The consumer, not the vet, must be the target audience just as the Fitbit was designed for the athlete and eventually the regular individual not the doctor. Voyce, which I thought was a phenomenal product, could not monetize itself and has discontinued production and research of future innovation.
Health collars will only evolve with the support of pet owners by educating and helping them care for their pet. These products are great but the interface between information accumulated and delivered back to the pet owner is weak. It needs stronger direction, firmer objectives and more of a community of owners with similar issues or successes to communicate with.
The only true health collar left is the PetPace Collar.
The PetPace monitors temperature, pulse, respiration, activity levels, positions, calories burned, and heart rate variability.
Cost: Collar plus 1 year of health monitoring CAD 159.95 - 219 .95 (depending on how often parameters are measured).