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For the Love of Dogs

For the Love of Dogs

23 May 16:00 by Julie McEwan

Julie Nicholls' dog Dillon accompanies her blog on wearable technology and medical devices for animals

As most people that know me will testify, I am a bit of an animal nut and spend a considerable amount of disposable income on things for my dog.  Over the years these have included a lead with a built in umbrella and a water fountain so he would not have to drink from a stagnant bowl. The fact that he would rather drink out of a muddy stream and very rarely wants to venture out when it rains did little to deter my purchases.

So it seems predictable that eventually my passion for innovative technology within the medical device field and my love for my pet would cross and I began to research the market for device application within animal health and well-being.

The market is currently awash with a range of smart devices for domestic pets. From wearable collars that provide more basic functions such as independent access through pet doors and regulated feeding. However now it is possible to purchase devices that monitor and feedback data with regards to pet’s activity levels, temperature, heart rate, breathing patterns, real time location tracking and even behaviour patterns and ones which provide the function for real time remote interaction.

The location trackers offer pin point accuracy for wayward pets and also the option for prevention – with an alert to highlight distance from either the devices base unit or from the closest family member (or more specifically their smart phone/tablet). These wearables, that come in varying sizes to fit dogs, cats and even birds, also have an option for measuring social interactions and behavioural patterns that may signify emotional distress such as barking/whimpering in the pet owners absence. At the top end of this market are devices that allow remote visual monitoring, audio interaction and play, via a camera and smart phone link.

Other products on offer have  a more traditional application in the medical device sense, in terms of prevention, diagnosis or treatment of disease and their wide spread prevalence and far ranging application may shock you.

One such device that is being marketed for dogs and horses is one which applies resonance technology to provide improved mobility, swifter recovery from exercise and injury and improvement in general wellbeing. Worn as a collar on the dog and around the ankle of the horse – the results have been so well received and documented that the device is approved and recommended by international showjumpers, competitors from the Paralympic Dressage team, National dog agility teams and leading canine charities; demonstrating both a clinical and performance application.

Medical devices are also being widely used in the arena of livestock health and welfare. Biosensors are being used for disease diagnosis and detection on cattle, pig and poultry farms. These sensors detect micro fluids, sweat and saliva secretion but also capture images and sound to allow the farmers to better assess and regulate the health and welfare of their stock but also to prevent disease. Coughing captured by sound analysers allow the affected animal to be quarantined to prevent the spread of the disease resulting in better health for the animals but also the avoidance of serious economic loss should the whole herd be affected. Antibiotic resistance is already a problem within agriculture so any reduction in their unnecessary application is also beneficial.

Devices are also being used to monitor fertility patterns amongst livestock and the correlation between feed and weight gain and milk production amongst dairy cows. Thus allowing the farmer to capitalise on his stock whilst maintaining an ethical environment and healthy, happy animals.

Currently there is no requirement for animal devices to be CE marked or to meet the requirements necessary to reach this accreditation in Europe. The FDA similarly has no pre-requisite for the manufacturers of animal medical devices to register themselves with them, or even to register the products they are manufacturing/distributing. They do however stipulate that device quality is the responsibility of the manufacturer, but with so many devices to monitor how is this policed?

The spend, in domestic pet wearables alone, is due to increase globally from $1 billion to $2.5 billion in the next decade. This and the low level of regulatory requirements within veterinary devices will see a huge drive in this area and more innovative and impressive solutions coming to commercialisation.

Now where is my credit card...........

More Blogs from Julie McEwan

Julie has written numerous interesting and well researched blogs on a wide range of topics related to Medical Devices and Human Factors.  Please click here to read more of Julie's blogs and here to find out more about Julie.