Can a Smartphone App be good for your pet’s health?

Fintan Browne MVB, veterinary surgeon in Blanchardstown Veterinary Hospital

There are over 750,000 apps in Apple’s App store and many that deal with pets and animals in general. Some are frivolous and some are interesting but in today’s post I am looking at a type of App that may actually be good for your pet’s health.

When a vet examines an ill pet and makes a diagnosis the owner will often be prescribed medication for that pet. We are now very lucky in the veterinary profession to have access to an arsenal of very effective drugs to treat a myriad of conditions that commonly affect our pets, including infections, skin disease, arthritis, diabetes, etc.  But dispensing drugs to an owner is not the same as administering them directly to a pet – this is where the idea of “owner compliance” comes in. Compliance describes the willingness or ability of the owner to administer the correct dose of medication at the correct intervals for the required period of time. A recent veterinary study showed that even for a short course of antibiotics prescribed for dogs fewer than 30% of owners gave all of the tablets as they were directed to. Common problems include missed doses and not finishing the full course.

Poor compliance can be a cause of treatment failure, sub-optimal management of chronic conditions (like arthritis or skin disease) and with respect to antibiotics can favour the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria (which can then be a health risk for both the pet and owner). It is especially important when the vet prescribes a course of antibiotics for your pet to give the correct dose as directed until the course is finished. If the vet has asked you to revisit at the end of the course it is important that you do so as the vet will be looking to see if the infection has responded to treatment or whether a longer course of the same or a different antibiotic is required.

There are many reasons for poor owner compliance. Sometimes the pet will be very difficult to medicate (eg won’t allow owners to give tablets or administer topical treatments). However a common reason is simply not remembering to give the drugs at the correct time of the day for the full length of the course. We all lead busy lives and it is very easy to simply forget to medicate our pets. Here is where smartphone apps can help! There are a number of free Apps available that can be set up to trigger reminders on your phone that a medication needs to be administered. They are generally very simple to use and can be a significant help in improving owner compliance in veterinary medicine. My favourite free App for the iPhone is RxReminder but there are many more available for iPhones, Android phones and Blackberrys.

So the next time you are dispensed medication for your pet consider using your phone to help make sure that you use it to its best effect!

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