Dog activity tracker innovation indicates scratching severity offering opportunity for early intervention - Veterinary Practice
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Dog activity tracker innovation indicates scratching severity offering opportunity for early intervention

Whistle canine activity tracker differentiates between severe and mild itching, assisting owners in monitoring their pet’s scratching activity and offering the opportunity for early veterinary intervention

Researchers from the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine‘s Center for Outcomes Research and Epidemiology, Holland Management Services, Zoetis and the Pet Insight Project team at Kinship (part of Mars Petcare) have successfully correlated scratching activity tracked by a Whistle device with pet owner observations of pet scratching – further validating a reliable method of detecting medically relevant scratching activity potentially indicative of underlying skin conditions in dogs. Details of the breakthrough were shared at the European Veterinary Dermatology Congress on 17 September 2021.     

“Pet owners can overlook the subtle changes in behavior that may be a warning sign for an underlying issue and are often too late to recognize their beloved companion is suffering,” said Aletha Carson, DVM, veterinarian and data and clinical studies senior manager for Kinship. “This new method of analyzing pet behaviors provides pet owners with an ‘always-on’ monitor that may be helpful in keeping their dogs healthy and happy.”

Insights made possible through citizen science

To obtain the results, the researchers recorded pet scratching activity with remote sensors embedded in the Whistle device. They then compared that information with the visual observations of 358 pet owners who graded the severity of their pet’s scratching activity on a scale from zero, which represents a normal dog (“itching is not a problem for my dog”) to 100, corresponding to extreme itching (“itching disrupts my dog’s sleep, eating, play and exercise”). 

After rigorous statistical analysis, measurements of scratching severity as determined by the Whistle activity tracker corresponded to the owner’s overall impression of the pet’s pruritus, or itch, level. As scratching severity increased, as measured by the Whistle device, owner’s assessment scores significantly increased as well (P < 0.01).

“This groundbreaking data-driven advance is a positive step forward in detecting the skin ailments that affect so many of our canine companions,” added Aletha. “It may also prove to be quite useful for veterinarians who need an objective way to gauge a pet’s response to prescribed therapies used to reduce inflammation and scratching without requiring time-intensive monitoring from the owner.” Whistle activity and health trackers are already commercially available with the itch severity tool described above as part of the Whistle’s existing capabilities. For more information on the new method and other Pet Insight Project efforts visit the Pet Insight website.

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