Whether you have one pet or a menagerie, keeping track of their current medications, vaccination due dates, and other health information is, well, no walk in the park. A host of health apps have made it easier to remember to give heartworm preventives, apply flea and tick control, or schedule wellness visits, according to Jim Dobies, DVM, veterinarian and president of UrgentVet in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Tampa, Florida.
"If [apps] help pet parents track and remember their pets' wellness care, I'm all for it," he says. He advises pet owners to consider these four pet health apps.
Pet First Aid: The American Red Cross created an app for dog and cat owners with videos and illustrations featuring instructions for handling pet emergencies like burns, falls, and seizures. It also provides the locations of pet-friendly hotels in case you need to seek shelter during a natural disaster. "If you have to evacuate, the information is tremendously useful," Dobies says.
Animal Poison Control Center: "Dogs eat everything," Dobies says. Thanks to a searchable database, this ASPCA-created app allows you to determine whether the slice of pizza or bouquet of daisies your dog, cat, or bird ate is cause for concern. The app provides details on more than 300 common toxins from medications to garden pesticides.
FitBark: If your pet is getting a little too pudgy, the FitBark app might help. "A lot of pets don't get enough exercise," says Dobies. The app, connected to an activity monitor, tracks how much exercise your pet gets and helps you monitor changes in mobility.
VitusVet: Access your pet's entire medical history in a single app. Dobies likes that it tracks medication reminders so pet parents never miss a dose of heartworm preventive or flea and tick control. You can also share vaccination records with boarding facilities, the groomer, or veterinarians at after-hours clinics who need information about medications and treatments.
Before you download a pet health app, Dobies provides some pointers.
1. Seek out reputable providers
Dobies suggests looking for apps developed by national organizations. In case of emergencies, you want to know that details about toxins and lifesaving treatments such as pet CPR are accurate.
2. Engagement matters
An app is useless unless you use it. "It's great if an app sends a push notification that a vaccination or heartworm preventive is due, but you can't swipe it away and forget about it. You have to follow through with an action," Dobies says.
3. Apps are no substitute for professional vet care
Even though apps can provide valuable information about your pet's health and wellness, regular veterinary visits are still a crucial part of good care.
4. Download updates
"You have to update your apps regularly or you're operating on outdated information," Dobies says. Discovering that an urgent vet clinic moved to a new address could delay lifesaving treatment.
Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of WebMD Magazine.