Can Pet Health Technology Improve Outcomes in a Multi-Cat Household Weight Management Program While Preserving the Human-Animal Bond?
Kenneth J. Lambrecht, DVM
West Towne Veterinary Center, Madison, WI
To help veterinarians solve feline obesity treatment and prevention, a pilot study with a “Pet Health Technology Ecosystem,” was tested in-home with 14 cats. This system helped achieve favorable weight loss rates, a lower weight loss program "dropout rate", and cat and pet owner acceptance of home health technology while keeping the human animal bond intact.
- Weight loss target for cats is generally 1 to 2% per week from the initial weight. Dropout rates in home weight management programs (WMP) have been reported at 41% in cats in a 12-week study, with 86% of the dropouts due to lack of clinic follow-ups.
- For clients, there are five major challenges with in-home WMPs:
- Clear veterinary recommendations
- Getting the right amount of food to the right cat
- The need for interim metrics, especially BW
- The impact on clients of cat behaviors during caloric restriction (cats begging, fighting, vocalizing)
- Getting cats to exercise.
- These challenges led to the “Bug Gym Pilot study,” which used a home health technology ecosystem consisting of an electronic scale, smart feeder, an activity monitor and a webcam/treat dispenser. Eight veterinarians supervised households of two indoor-only cats with at least one cat having a BCS of 7-9/9.
Study results included:
- Good satisfaction with devices
- Average weight loss was 0.85% over a four-week period for the 14 cats
- Dropout rate was 22%.
- Technology solutions/challenges:
- Smart feeders to deliver the correct amount of food multiple times per day to the correct cat
- Digital home scales and emerging smart scales for body weight assessment
- Using/choosing apps to keep track of metrics/online diary
- Cat activity tracker
- Motion/sound activate webcams to keep track of feeding related behaviors/intercat behaviors
- Smart exercise devices to increase cat activity
- Finding the best combination of products for each individual cat household is a project in itself
- Cat clients reported that using technology for weight loss has positive effects on the human-animal bond.
- Future tools: “digiceuticals,” DNA testing/microbiome manipulation and telehealth.
The feline overweight and obesity rate is over 60%. With a better understanding of feline feeding behavior and home health technology system options, practicing veterinarians can be more successful implementing feline weight-management programs, especially in multiple-cat households.