Waggit's smart collar could one day help save dogs from cancer

Your dog now has a fully featured fitness tracker
Waggit's dog health collar

Everyone knows that dogs are the greatest, but that might be because we don't speak the same language. Maybe if we understood our canine friends' political beliefs and found out what they really thought of us, we'd feel differently. But for now, that language barrier definitely hurts when our pets get sick, since dogs can't properly tell us when they're feeling symptoms of something. Waggit's new smart collar, on Kickstarter now for $249, goes some way to change that.

Read this: The best pet trackers

Waggit is a smart collar fitted with sensors that will keep you in the know on your pet's condition. Susan Sierota, co-founder and CEO of Waggit, describes it as an Owlet baby sock wrapped in an iPhone and, well, that seems pretty accurate. The big thing is the smart alert engine, which will let you know when something is going on with your dog.

This includes things like completing fitness goals, but it also includes temperature alerts. So if Lucky is getting unusually hot, the companion app can recommend checking to see if something's stressing him out. It can also let you know resting respiration rate – if that changes drastically, you know something is wrong.

It can do this because Waggit is constantly trying to learn what your dog's baseline vitals are for temperature, heart rate and sleep. If something charts off or is trending in a certain direction it'll alert you, and you can then take that information to a veterinarian.

"The idea is that animals intentionally hide pain because they're pack animals and they want to please us," says Susan Sierota, co-founder and CEO of Waggit. "We end up spending thousands trying to save them and then it's usually too late. Then you feel really bad because they were suffering and they didn't know it."

Waggit wants its smart collar to help your dog avoid cancer

You'll get the usual set of sleep metrics, like deep and light sleep, but you'll also get to know which side your dog likes to rest on. So if your dog usually likes to sleep on her right side, but suddenly switches to the left or back, it can be a sign that something is up.

All of these features are in addition to the more basic things we've seen on other dog trackers, like location and virtual fences. There's also a training program that includes three sounds that you can use to train your best friend. Oh, there's also nutrition tracking. Right now that means keeping track of calories in and calories out, but eventually Waggit hopes to create a database of information that can help vets find indicators for cancer rates. Sierota says they could, theoretically, find out that German Shepherds in San Francisco who eat this kind of diet and get a certain amount of exercise are less prone to get this condition.

Waggit has partnered with Colorado State Universities' veterinarian clinic to help clinically test its results. And while Waggit doesn't want to diagnose dogs, it does think it can give people enough information to help catch cancer early, before it's too late.

"This truly is life changing, because they don't talk to us. We look at human and dog trends in health and one out of two people are getting cancer and one out of two dogs are dying of cancer," Sierota says. "And they're dying earlier, with humans we have so much better early diagnosing. With dogs we haven't made any progress."

Another way Waggit is aiming to help is with service animals, like K-9 dogs. Law enforcement has told Waggit that one of the problems they face is uncertainty in when to retire a dog. It's hard to tell when a dog is getting too old and too tired with the work they do, but with Waggit they could potentially get a better sense of when to retire K-9s. Additionally, animal cancer researchers have been "chomping at the bit" to get the data to help their research.

Waggit currently works on all kinds of breeds, from dogs that weigh just 20 pounds right up to 170 pounds. Theoretically, the collar will work on smaller dogs, but the company feels it's too heavy so is working on a version without a cellular antenna (which costs an extra $4.95 a month). This version will not be able to do virtual fencing and 'find my pet' features, but Waggit argues these dogs are usually so small that they're always with their people anyway.

Crowdfund this?

Zoinks! Waggit has been running a private beta program since June, with researchers testing the collar on its own pets. This is in addition to about 50 dogs from animal shelters and doggy day cares testing the device.

On top of that, Sierota says the company is expecting the first 200 manufactured units in November. The company "didn't want to play that game" and start taking sales until they were sure they could manufacture the number of units they needed. It says full shipping is expected to start in March 2018.

Waggit wants its smart collar to help your dog avoid cancer

On the manufacturing front, Waggit seems like it has all its ducks in a row. It really feels hard to bet against Waggit. The company has researchers, vets and dog lovers in the loop checking its materials and colours and data. If it can deliver everything it's talking up then we think this could well be another pet wearable success story.


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