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Your Dog Is Sick? There’s an App for That

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People have been analyzing data to track their fitness levels and sleep patterns for years, using gadgets and cell phone apps to track information on themselves. Now, more companies are now applying the same technology to gadgets for pets, hoping to extend the lives of our furry friends.

Using a new accelerometer that senses motion and speed, plus a cell phone app, dog owners will soon be able to measure how much their pets run, walk, play and rest. They may also use big data to help identify and treat dogs' health problems.

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"We string those measurements together and look to see if we can identify a pattern ... and then look through those patterns over time to see if a potential issue might be emerging from the dog's activity or rest trends," said Ben Jacobs, CEO of Whistle, which makes a device that's launching later this summer. The Whistle gadget attaches to a dog’s collar and communicates via Bluetooth to mobile devices.

Jacobs says the device and app may not only help pets could live longer, but by measuring a dog's activity, owners could save money on vet bills by detecting potential health problems and seeking treatment for them early on.

"If you talk to a vet today, the number one thing they'll tell you is they have a lack of information. Owners come to the vet with a pet often in a very reactive emotional state. But they have no data across the last week or month," Jacobs said. "And so our goal is to provide the first comparative database, across breeds, across weights, across ages, where you can say definitively for your four-year-old English bulldog or your 10-year-old English Springer Spaniel what that dog actually needs from a day-to-day perspective."

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Other devices carry out similar functions. Currently, the Tagg Pet Tracker, which uses GPS technology, is already available for sale, and FitBark, a competing accelerometer, is available for pre-orders online.

In addition to using dog health data from clinical studies, Whistle is using real-life data from beta testing of its device and plans to add more information gathered from its users to its database.

When the Whistle device launches later this summer, it will only be available to Apple iOS devices, so those with Android devices are out of luck until later in the year. And those who want to chart their pet's activity on the web won't be able to do so until early next year.

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The device is available for pre-order on the company's website. Whistle is in talks with Petco and PetSmart for sales in stores later this year.

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