How Data Helps to Provide the Best to Your Best Friend

December 18, 2018
Dog wearing Animo to monitor their activity and behavior

By Jon Bowen, BVetMed DipAS(CABC) MRCVS, RVC, University of
London 

We like to think that we know how our dogs feel, but the reality
is that we often miss things. This spring our twelve-year old
Labrador, Harry, was suddenly taken very ill with pancreatitis.
It’s a serious condition, but he survived. However, thinking back
to what he had been like during the few days before he became ill,
it’s clear that he had not been right. 

The signs were subtle, but he had been a little bit less playful
and a little less enthusiastic on walks. Nothing that was bad
enough to alarm us, but it was notable in hindsight. 

This was one of the incidents that really brought home to me how
monitoring devices could help us to understand better how our dogs
feel. Pancreatitis is painful, so Harry probably wasn’t sleeping
comfortably. He doesn’t sleep in our bedroom, so he could have
been tossing and turning all night and I wouldn’t have known.
A monitor like
Animo
could have told us about disturbed sleep and changes in
activity that started well ahead of the physical signs of
pancreatitis, so we could have sought treatment earlier.

Senior dog using Animo to monitor movement in relation to arthritisThere
are a whole host of common medical problems that monitors like
Animo might help us with. Monitors can alert us to changes in sleep
and activity patterns that can be a general indication of pain,
stress or declining health, as well specific behaviors like
scratching or barking. This can be useful if we want to know
whether a treatment is working; for example, has itchiness been
reduced to an acceptable level with a particular allergy treatment
for dermatitis. It can also tell us whether a dog is coping well
with being left alone or is in fact barking because it is
stressed.

Some diseases, like arthritis, change in severity over time so
that treatments lose their effectiveness. A human patient will go
to their doctor to ask for help, but dogs don’t always show
obvious signs of pain. A monitor like Animo can tell us that
although our dog still goes on the same two-mile walk every morning
and evening, he is running around and playing less during the walk.
When we change to a different anti-inflammatory drug, we can see an
improvement in the data from the monitor much more easily than we
could by observation alone.

Monitoring isn’t all about getting alerts about impending
health problems, it can also give greater insight into wellbeing.
In 2011, The Mental Health Foundation published the results of a
survey of people’s sleep quality and the impact it has on their
ability to function. They found that only
38% of people had good quality sleep
, and that insomnia was
associated with relationship problems, low energy and poor
concentration. Insomnia is also linked to stress and anxiety. We
know very little about sleep in dogs, but they share the same
environment with us, so they are exposed to many of the same
sources of disturbance and stress. By giving us an insight into
our dogs’ sleep quality, monitors like Animo enable us to make
changes that help our dogs to sleep better. For example, being fed
a bit earlier, going on a relaxing evening walk, and moving the
dog’s bed to a quieter, darker place. You can see the effects of
any changes you make, and the result could be a happier, more
active and less irritable pet.

Dog wearing Animo to monitor their activity and behaviourAnother
major issue for pet dogs is obesity. Although it probably doesn’t
seem like it sometimes, most people are pretty good at managing
their weight; we subconsciously change the amount of food we eat
according to our level of physical activity. The problem is that
dogs don’t seem to have the same level of self-control, and many
of them behave as if they would eat until they burst. In people,
weight gain results from only very small excesses in calorie
intake: To gain 1kg of weight in a year, a person only has to eat
an extra two chocolate bars a month. It’s the same with dogs.
Activity monitors like Animo can give us an
accurate indication of the number of calories our dogs have
expended in exercise, so we can adjust the amount of food we feed.
This is particularly useful if a lot of the dog’s exercise is
with dog walkers; we don’t really know how far our dog has
walked, whether he has been running around or playing. A monitor
like Animo can tell us.

This brings us to the last, and probably most important, aspect
of wellbeing, which is how much pleasure our dogs get from their
lives. There is a big difference between an average walk and a
great walk, or an average day and a fun day. We want our dogs to
have the best quality of life possible, but it’s easy to slip
into bad habits because we have busy lives and conflicting
priorities. This is a particular problem when dogs get past 7 years
of age; they often become calmer, less demanding and easier to
overlook. Just as personal activity trackers remind us to take
regular exercise, monitors like Animo can remind us
to do more fun things with our dogs, and to be better pet owners.
Perhaps that’s the most important thing of all.

Teaser Image: 
Dog wearing Animo to monitor their activity and behaviour
Teaser Text: 
We like to think that we know how our dogs feel, but the
reality is that we often miss things. This spring our twelve-year
old Labrador, Harry, was suddenly taken very ill with pancreatitis.
It’s a serious condition, but he survived. However, thinking back
to what he had been like during the few days before he became ill,
it’s clear that he had not been right.

Source: FS – Dogs – MDM
How Data Helps to Provide the Best to Your Best Friend