Animal welfare technology in the pet industry

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“The demand for pets has exploded. Inquiries increased by over 253% during lockdown and over 20,000 people contacted pet charity Wood Green to get a new pet – over half of which were for dogs” says Linda Cantle, director of pet and owner assistance services at Wood Green. pet food The Manufacturers Association (PFMA) confirms there has been a ‘dramatic increase’ in pet acquisitions since Covid-19, alluding to government furloughs as well as the possibility of working from home as particular motivations for the swell of additions.

“This sudden surge in demand has been felt across the industry, with charities and breeders inundated with hopeful potential pet owners,” Cantle says.

The new attendance has not only caught the attention of charities and breeders, but has also ‘intensified’ the level of competition within the industry. According to e-commerce platform Common Thread, she cites that while retail stores have seen a “slow increase” in purchases, the online pet market has almost quadrupled since 2013. Data from Statista bolsters the numbers from the platform, showing that both “pet supplies” and “pet food” are the second and third largest e-commerce GIC categories in the industry – the platform even suggests that many retailers Core pet stores such as Walmart and Target have been forced to expand their online presence to maintain their presence in the industry.

Common Thread therefore proposes that market appetite is already attracting the attention of entrepreneurs “eager” to enter new markets. He therefore sees an increase in start-ups with a particular focus on technological innovation in pet fitness – but why now?

“This technology really wasn’t ready and it took many years for human technology to mature,” says Andrew Nowell, CEO and founder of pet activity retailer PitPat. “Unfortunately, more than half of dogs are overweight or obese – it’s the number one problem right now – and it really needs to be tackled.”

Nowell hasn’t always worked in the pet industry, but her love for animals has been abiding. After specializing in the engineering industry and designing technology focused on human health, Nowell was intrigued to find out how this innovation could be applied to the pet market. He credits the recent presence of tech innovation in health and fitness to product development “taking time to create” – and only now are we seeing the results.

“Every year it gets better. Imagine the first iPhone – when it came out the big leap forward was the widescreen, but it had no apps. Over the years there have been an incredible amount of innovations and the same is happening in the pet industry.This new technology aims to keep dogs as happy and healthy as possible.

According to the IGA, the market is particularly “ripe” for open innovation and it goes so far as to describe the market as a “growth center” for new technologies – for example, PitPat took advantage of the opportunity to integrating some of the technologies that impact human health into the pet industry:

“Fitbit has been really successful in getting people to monitor human exercise and really focus on health. Our activity tracker is also focused on keeping dogs in the best physical condition to live the most healthy lifestyle. healthy as possible,” says Nowell.

PitPat points to exercise, diet and weight management as areas where technology can have a big part to improve, suggesting “it was previously impossible to get personalized recommendations for these areas.” Banking firm Morgan Stanley agrees with PitPat and names animal health as one of the “most important” areas of innovation. Quoted by Forbes, he suggests that research and development teams can “take advantage of new technologies” leading to discoveries that improve animal health. Nowell argues that “technology has the ability to fundamentally improve the way we care for our pets.”

Using extensive research to measure over 100,000 dogs, PitPat is now able to profile their activity and understand how many calories they burn: “This is the first time we’ve truly understood how much you need to feed a dog to take in weight. , lose weight or maintain weight,” says Nowell. The Global Animal Health Association further points to the possibility of creating new vaccines through continued technological innovations, which “are among the most powerful tools in the veterinary toolbox.” Yet what other benefits does pet fitness technology offer? “It solves three main problems at the minute,” says Nowell. “The first is knowing how much exercise your dog needs.”

According to PitPat, each breed of dog requires a different amount of exercise, and the new wave of monitoring tools allows owners to constantly observe their dog’s level of movement, especially as puppies. “As a new pet parent, it can be overwhelming. There are more consumers who need this help and support – and now perhaps more than ever with the current trend of pet ownership. dogs after the pandemic.” The retailer’s latest research also revealed that almost half of all UK dogs are overweight, more than six million in total. As well as providing the right level of exercise, the technology welfare within the sector is also able to provide the ‘correct’ amount of food through food vending machines.” If you look at what’s on the back of the minute food packaging, it’s a one-size-fits-all recommendation for pretty much all dogs,” Nowell says. amount of food that your dog needs.” By using food vending machines, it provides consumers with “a fully personalized feeding recommendation – which means less time decoding tables and more time enjoying life with your dog.”

PitPat disputes that traditional models for calculating dietary requirements have been limited due to the ‘lack’ of available data – and with its findings highlighting that obesity can shorten a dog’s life by up to two years, it’s something that may prove to be in high demand by consumers – in fact, the retailer is already revealing the strong appetite for fitness monitoring technology in the market, as it shows it shipped 39% more devices in 2021 compared to 2020 and sold more than 100,000 devices in total.

PetsForever attributes the skyrocketing progress in animal welfare to pet safety, particularly the introduction of pet cameras. According to Emergen Research, the pet camera industry is expected to grow fivefold by 2028. PetsForever not only alludes to the reassurance that cameras provide the consumer when away from their pet, but also to communication. Still, Nowell draws attention to the “long disputed” argument: Should dogs be left home alone? “Obviously there are times when you have no choice. But for me, I think it can be more distressing to know that they are upset and there is nothing they can do about it.

The CEO, however, champions the ability of wellness technology in the sector to help veterinary practices. “One of the exciting long-term things is that this data can help your vet figure out what’s wrong with your dog.” Nowell warns companies they have to be “very careful” not to override the vet and offer diagnoses, but “if you notice your dog slowing down and you get an alert from your phone, you will be encouraged to speak to your veterinary”.

“It’s a really positive step forward,” he adds. “Anything that can be done to help decide whether people should come for a visit, or if it’s just a matter of rearranging and changing, is always crucial. It’s a fantastic use of technology.

Nowell says we are seeing a growing appetite in the industry for technological innovation in companion animal welfare. From exercise monitors to food dispensers, the technology already in the industry is “significantly” improving the health of pets — “there’s no question in my mind,” says Nowell. He goes so far as to suggest that “caring for our pets can go beyond human health”, highlighting the space for new developments in the industry. Perhaps one of the most important aspects this technology can offer is that it “encourages” pet owners to be more careful. “It has to be about how we improve the lives of pet parents and their pets,” Nowell says. “The more technologies that work together, the more power we have to help.”

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