As a veterinary practitioner, a key part of your role is treating sick and injured animals. But another crucial role is proactively monitoring pet health. This includes conducting periodical wellness exams and check-ups to ensure pets are fit and healthy, administering routine vaccinations, and regularly assessing vital signs in order to detect potential health changes.
Thanks to technological advances in veterinary healthcare, you now have access to a number of other valuable tools to help you monitor the health of all animals registered with your practice. This includes the use of remote pet health monitoring devices, wearable technology, and devices for monitoring nutritional and behavioral changes. And all this enables you to continuously monitor vital signs in pets so that you can provide better care to all your patients.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can proactively monitor pet health in your veterinary practice.
First and foremost, nothing provides you with a more in-depth analysis of an animal’s health than conducting routine check-ups. These wellness checks should take place once or twice a year if an animal is in good health (more regular appointments are necessary if a pet is suffering from a known condition).
A routine pet health examination usually includes the following procedures:
- Weighing a pet
- Checking stance and gait
- Examining feet and nails for damage or signs of more serious health concerns
- Listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope
- Looking at the animal’s skin for issues such as dryness, parasites, or lumps
- Inspecting the overall condition of the animal’s coat
- Examining the eyes for signs of redness, cloudiness, eyelid issues, excessive tearing, or discharge
- Examining the ears for signs of bacterial infection, ear mites, wax build-up, or polyps
- Checking teeth for any signs of damage, tooth decay or periodontal disease
- Palpating the animal’s body for signs of swelling, pain or limited range of motion
- Palpating the abdomen to check internal organs and that there are no signs of discomfort
- Discussing the animal’s behavior, diet, lifestyle, exercise routine, level of thirst, and urination
- Ensuring vaccinations and booster shots are up to date
- Administering flea treatment and de-wormer if needed
- Testing urine, blood, or stool samples if needed.
All these tests provide you with valuable data so that you can monitor the overall health of an animal and check for potential early signs of developing health issues.
Remote Pet Health Monitoring
These days, monitoring pet health is not restricted to an annual check-up; there is also a range of smart devices that can help you monitor an animal’s health remotely. This enables both veterinarians and pet owners to gain valuable insight into the overall health and lifestyle of an animal so that you can catch signs of potential conditions much sooner than you would if you only see an animal once or twice a year.
Most remote health monitoring devices can track physiological parameters such as body temperature, respiratory rate, pulse rate, and heart rhythm as well as calories burned by the animal. This gives you a holistic view of an animal’s health so that you can proactively address any potential health concerns.
Examples of remote pet health monitoring devices include:
- Smart IoT collars that track and analyze pet vital signs.
- AI and machine learning devices, which can be used to monitor vital signs and eating and drinking behavior in animals, especially useful for post-surgical care.
- Activity and sleep trackers.
- A range of other wearable devices that enable you to track pet health vital signs from a remote wireless monitor. Data can then be accessed from cloud software and push notifications and alerts can be configured from an app.
You can also use smart devices to monitor the behavior of your patients remotely. This can be a really effective way to monitor pet health over an extended period of time. This is particularly important when you consider that animals are unable to tell you how they feel, so you are at a disadvantage when it comes to successfully diagnosing and treating patients. Plus, with a traditional check-up, you are relying solely on the perceptions and observations of pet owners, who may not recognize or may misinterpret important signs.
For example, a client with an overweight dog might think their pet is active and getting enough exercise, but they can’t give you an exact figure when it comes to active vs. resting minutes per day, especially if they are out working for part of the day. The same goes for the time spent scratching in the case of animals with skin conditions.
Examples of behavior monitoring devices include:
- Activity trackers and harnesses that monitor active minutes vs resting time
- Monitors to track calorie intake and changes in appetite
- Sleep trackers to monitor the quantity and quality of sleep
With an activity and behavior monitor, you get a specific breakdown of how an animal behaves throughout the entire day. You can evaluate how much time they spend sleeping, how many steps they take each day, and how often they spend scratching each day. And this information is gold when it comes to making a diagnosis. You get a reliable overview of what an animal gets up to each day which can help you spot any changes in their behavior and, ultimately, in their health and wellbeing.
The biggest benefit of implementing all the above methods is that you are able to continuously monitor the health of an animal in the long term, not just once or twice a year when they come into your clinic. This is especially valuable in the case of older animals or those with existing chronic conditions such as kidney failure, heart disease, painful joints, cancer, or cognitive decline. These devices are also great for monitoring a range of health issues like allergies, skin conditions, and weight management.
Moreover, many of the devices currently on the market can be seamlessly integrated with your electronic patient medical records so that you have access to animal vital signs whenever needed. For example, you can configure certain devices to alert you if an animal that is wearing a remote continuous monitoring device has a fever. You can then arrange for the animal to come into the clinic so that you can check for the underlying cause. This might be heat stroke, an infectious disease (viral, fungal and bacterial), or early signs of a chronic inflammatory disease such as cancer. The sooner you identify a pet health condition, the sooner you can start treatment, drastically improving the long-term prognosis of the patient. And this helps you offer the best possible level of care to your patients.