Voyce app on tablet

When I first started writing about pet apps back in 2009, they were considered trendy playthings for the tech set and hadn’t yet been adopted by most pet owners. As such, there wasn’t much to be said for what few rudimentary animal-themed apps had eked their way into the marketplace.

Fast-forward to 2012 when I penned a post on the subject right here on vetstreet.com. It detailed a few fun apps, most of which were designed to lend you some basic assistance on pet wellness, behavior, travel and more. They were helpful, to be sure, but they were few and far between.

Nowadays, there are oodles of pet apps. So many, in fact, they’re hard to filter through. Trust me, I’ve tried. What’s worse is that many of them are, to put it bluntly, dogs. They don’t offer much functionality beyond simple social media links or a cache of reference material you might more easily access on your tablet.

Sure, they’re cool, especially since they can be accessed immediately (we love immediacy). But are they actually useful? Never fear, I have found some interesting and truly useful apps. Here are eight, listed by category.

Emergency Apps

If your pet is actually in an emergency situation, don’t waste time scrolling through an app — see your veterinarian immediately. I mean, if your cat is bleeding, you’re not about to read all about the possible causes, right? You’re going to the vet. And if your pet has eaten one of your blood pressure pills, you may try to look it up on an app, but you’re more likely to get a faster and more accurate answer by calling your veterinarian or a pet poison hotline.

For this reason, I treat these pet health care apps more like references to be read in advance of an emergency than an actual in-the-moment resource. Which is a useful, if more limited, function than these apps claim to offer. The best of these include…

Pet First Aid by American Red Cross: This reference tool offers the most comprehensive emergency care information of any app I’ve looked at. The CPR section is especially complete.

Animal Poison Control Center Mobile App: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (ASPCA) Poison Control Center offers this handy reference tool. It’s got all kinds of interesting stuff to look at and may just help you ID that potentially poisonous plant you’ve been worrying about. I particularly like its “rodentislide” function, which helps you assess the possibility and degree of rat poisoning based on the product your pet may have consumed, and its “chocolate wheel,” which makes it easy to tell which signs you can expect based on the quantity and type of chocolate your pet may have ingested.

ASPCA Mobile App: In the event of a natural disaster, this one promises that you’ll be able to “access critical advice on what to do with your pet before, during and after a major storm — even if there’s no data connectivity.” It also offers some missing pet functionality (helps you post fliers on social media) and brings you “the latest” animal welfare news.

The remaining apps are primarily for use with dogs.

FitBark app screengrab

Fitness Apps

Getting your pet exercised can be hard work and, much though it may promise, an app won’t make it any easier. It may, however, reduce that barrier to entry. If simply getting your butt off the sofa is helpful, an app may be just what you need.

MapMyDogwalk: This app works just like those running or walking apps to track your pace, distance, calories, etc. It’s well designed and a joy to use (never crashed on me once). The only thing I dislike is the sell-y side of it, which tries to get me to use other apps it sponsors.

FitBark: Similar to the Fitbit, this monitor tracks your dog’s activity and sleep patterns. The monitor attaches to your dog’s collar (and it does contain a battery, so care should be taken that your dog doesn’t chew on it). With the app, you can set exercise goals and even compare your dog’s exercise level with similar dogs. Cool, right?

Keeping Track

Another useful category of apps includes the kind that helps you keep track of your pets. Some of these purport to help you find them when they’re lost, but these tend to be limited to making it easier for you to post alerts on social media (reference the above ASPCA app) or otherwise engage your local community (the HomeAgain microchip app does this, too).

A tracking app I can recommend is one I’ve actually used successfully…

Whistle GPS Pet Tracker: To be fair, this isn’t really an app that works all by itself. It requires a GPS device that hooks up to your pet’s collar. But it’s small, waterproof and does what it says it does: tracks your pet in real time right on your mobile device. But it’s not super-duper inexpensive.

Luckily, the Whistle app and device does double duty as a fitness tracker, much like the FitBark.

Video Monitoring

Need to watch your pets carefully? Video monitoring is easy through all kinds of apps. I use Dropcam for my hospital’s live camera feeds, but a better option for those who don’t want to invest in a couple of $199 video cameras might be…

 This one works with a laptop or even a tablet, and has all kinds of pet-specific features. Those of you who worry about your diabetics, oldies or epileptics may want to consider this kind of app.

Health Monitoring

Again, I can recommend only the one product in this category I’ve actually used…

Voyce: Like the FitBark and the Whistle, this is a device as well as an app. It fits around your dog’s neck and sends you lots of information about your pet’s activity, heart rate and other vitals.

In fact, all of these apps are pretty impressive compared to my last pet app review. Let’s hope it doesn’t take years for me to offer you another update!

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