New dog and puppy owners are being urged to consider using activity monitors to keep track of their pets’ health, wellbeing and weight management.
The devices can be used to ensure dogs are getting regular and consistent exercise and that owners are paying attention to their animal’s weight, especially when at a time when it can be harder to visit a vet.
Myra Forster-van Hijfte, a Diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and RCVS fellow, said: “With the huge increase in dog ownership during the pandemic, access to good veterinary advice and weight management clinics is more relevant than ever.
“Many new puppy owners lack essential knowledge about feeding, weight management and exercise. Using an activity monitor as an integral part of a puppy or weight clinic from the outset helps to guide owners on the right activity level for their pet and monitors this, giving owners on-going support and confidence.”
Obesity is recognised by the veterinary profession as a major health problem in dogs and while many vet practices offer weight management programmes and clinics, there is often poor owner compliance.
“While restricting calorific intake is the mainstay of a weight management programme, at our weight clinics we see owners often struggling to comply, feeling they are being unkind to their dog,” said Bethany Scott, a general practice nurse with a special interest in pet nutrition. “We have also found that there can be poor compliance when it comes to recommending an increase in physical activity, but using an activity monitor can transform the situation.”
Activity monitors, such as one developed by PitPat, work in the same way as electronic fitness aids for humans, with data downloaded via a smartphone app. The device is attached to the dog’s collar or harness. The pet’s details are input by a vet team and the owner and the monitor will then track exercise and weight for that particular dog against targets, set by the vet team.
“It provides real-time, quantifiable data present to the owner and the veterinary team, allowing weight clinics to progress smoothly, especially now that for the time being face-to-face consultations may be difficult in some practices,” continued Bethany.