At least two or three times a week I’m finding it necessary to ask my clients to get more technologically savvy when it comes to their pets.
No, it’s not about the novel drugs and specialty veterinary services. Not this time. Instead, this post is about using PetCams and other high-tech means for documenting pet health concerns.
But you think these PetCam gadgets are kind of hokey, right?
Sure, it’s fun to be able to watch your pet while you’re on vacation via a PetCam trained on her luxury kennel suite — but can you even afford all the snazzy glitz these places dish out? Is it worth it to see your Fluffy living la vida luxurious while you assuage your guilt with the extra $50 a day this place and its dedicated PetCam costs?
Such is the manner in which most of us consider the PetCam: Lots of bucks (about $250 on Amazon for Panasonic's pet-worthy wireless device) … for relatively little bang.
But I’m here to inform you that the PetCam and its lower-tech equivalents (like your cell phone and/or digital camera) are finally getting the respect they deserve … by some veterinarians, at least.
Example 1: The multi-cat household pee-pee wars
Five cats. That means at least three litterboxes and a high risk of "inappropriate elimination" problems. But who’s the kitty doing the dirty deed on the kitchen counter?
Panasonic’s PetCam, with its eye focused on ground zero, can be set to activate only when it senses movement at the site, and presto! You’ve caught the culprit. Now you can take Tiger in to the vet to test for a UTI and/or direct behavior modification techniques to his individual needs. It might even save his life if the intermittent behavior is a precursor to urinary obstruction.
It’s certainly cheaper (not to mention less stressful) than bringing five cats in to the hospital to test for a condition that may or may not be present at the time he or she is evaluated by the vet.
Example 2: The reverse sneezer
Inevitably, pet owners who are inexperienced in the not-so subtle mysteries of the reverse sneeze will outright freak when their dog does this for the first time. This honking, snorting, hacking behavior will take a rookie owner to the ER for what has been mistaken for an asthma attack or other severe malady, when all it really is, is a simple reverse sneeze, an odd respiratory reaction that is long past by the time the vet sees the dog.
Instead, grab your cell phone or your digital camera and record a video of your dog's breathing attack. That’s what I tell owners to do after examining Fido and finding no evidence of a respiratory problem. After all, most owners (even after I show them a video of what this looks like) are convinced this is a severe pathology. Getting it on film means I can be sure it’s not.
Example 3: Is it a seizure or something else?
Many conditions may manifest in seizure-like terms — but they’re not actual seizures. Having an expert watch a video of any kind of intermittent event is often crucial to its diagnosis. There’s nothing worse than showing up at the vet’s office with a currently invisible problem you can’t even properly describe.
Example 4: The seizure watch
PetCams are excellent for documenting real seizures too. If you know your pet has a seizure disorder it’s hard to leave the house knowing he or she may suffer one in your absence. And what if it’s a big one?
Isolate your pet to a room decked out with a PetCam and you can be alerted to extremes of activity in your absence. Granted, you have to be available to watch the event online but it’s indeed possible to have the PetCam set up on your computer’s desktop for due vigilance’s sake.
Example 5: The diabetic
It’s stressful to leave your diabetic pet home alone after she’s eaten a little less than normal and you’ve given her a regular dose of insulin. The ability to watch her online every thirty minutes can make all the difference to your stress level and her survival in the event of a severe drop in blood sugar.
Now, these are only five examples, but there are many more. So, before you take your pet off to the doctor for a problem only you have seen, get out the video camera. You'll save time, money, and possibly your pet's life. And consider all the fun you can have documenting your pets’ lives — even when they’re well.
Dr. Patty Khuly