Wearable devices for pets set to grow into a multibillion dollar market

Devices that track pets' activity levels and health are among the hottest high-tech offerings right now, a market that is poised to reach $2.6 billion US in sales by 2025.

Helicopter pet owners use devices to check in on Fido

Forget the FitBit. Ignore the Apple Watch. The hottest new wearable devices aren't worn by humans, they're for our pets.

Dozens of exhibitors showed off the latest technology for four-legged friends at this summer's "We Are Wearables" conference in Toronto. And the market is growing quickly: Sales of the devices are expected to reach an estimated $2.6 billion US by 2025.

"You can track activity of a dog — their sleep habits and patterns — you can even eventually feed a dog remotely through your phone," Zayn Jaffer of BestBuy, which carries some of the devices, told CBC News.

Take the FitBark.

It's a small, dog bone-shaped device that mounts on a dog's collar. FitBark — and its accompanying app for iOs or Android — figures out how much activity the dog needs based on its age, weight and breed.

Just like a human fitness tracker, the data is charted over time, making it easy to follow any changes.

Wonderwoof is a similar device but shaped like a little bow tie.

Connects via smartphone

It will send a notification to a smartphone reminding an owner when it's time to take Rover for a walk. And it will also send a warning if Rover takes off and gets too far away. 

Binatone has a smart collar for dogs that claims to work as a training aide. It can emit an ultrasonic sound that only dogs can hear that can be used to correct bad behaviour.

Binatone also has a built in camera so the owner can get a dog's eye view of the daily walk. It will snap stills and record video, and even has a night mode so walks in the dark can be viewed.

You can share the video with all your dog-loving friends on social media. 

For the helicopter pet owner

Many pet owners will also use these devices to keep tabs on dog walkers or dog sitters. Are they really walking their pooches as far and for as long as they are billing?

Then there's PetCube.

"It lets you watch, talk to and play a laser game with your pet remotely using your smartphone," PetCube's Yulia Zimmerman said.
Pet trainer Brad Pattison uses PetCube to keep tabs on and play with his border collie from anywhere in the world. (CBC)

The $199 US device is a small, cube-shaped camera that streams 720p video over the internet to a mobile app. Owners can monitor their pets from anywhere in the world, provided they have an internet connection.

PetCube also has a speaker and a built-in laser pointer, so you can talk and play with your pet remotely.

"I love it," said Brad Pattison, a dog trainer, author and host of At The End of My Leash, a show offering dog-training tips.

Pattison used the PetCube during the Toronto conference to check in on Kya, his 10-year-old border collie, in Kelowna, B.C.

"I had no idea that it would give me that kind of peace of mind," he said. "And I've always been curious as to see what my dog would be doing during the day."

Vets approve

Kya was napping and barely stirred when Pattison greeted her over the internet.

Veterinarians say wearable devices allow them to accurately measure resting heart and respiratory rates away from the stress of the animal clinic.

Movement trackers can provide indications around arthritis and other chronic conditions.
Veterinarian Adam Little says wearable devices can provide crucial health information about pets that wouldn't be accessible without the technology. (CBC)

"We have a population of patients that doesn't know how to verbalize symptoms," said veterinarian Adam Little. "They instinctively hide pain. And so the ability to collect objective information via some of these devices is going to change the way that we manage their health, but also the way that pet owners are informed about their health."


Aaron Saltzman

Senior Reporter, Consumer Affairs

Aaron Saltzman is CBC's Senior Business Reporter. Tips/Story ideas always welcome.


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