You know Fido adores dried pig ears and long walks. He wags his tail wildly and gambols like a lamb. But how're his kidneys? Is he ridden with ticks?
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“Personally, I've always felt the best doctors in the world are veterinarians," Will Rogers once quipped. "He can’t ask his patients what's the matter — he’s got to just know." Indeed: when our dogs aren’t well, we ay not notice, let alone find the reason. Yonatan Dror, who established the Israeli start-up Oggway in 2011, believes the chip his company is inventing can bridge the gap between dog and diagnosis.
Oggii is a diagnostic device driven by a chip the company developed, that dogs carry on their collars. It uses Bluetooth wireless technology to transmit data about the dog to the owner’s mobile phone. The dog owner uploads the data from phone to Oggii's website, where it is processed into information on the dog's health.
The company collects three groups of data – for early diagnosis of disease, the state of nutrition, and the animal's physical fitness. The system records, then analyzes the dog's movements and the vibrations of its body.
“Parameters such as blood pressure and pulse aren’t helpful in identifying illness in dogs as they are in humans, so we don’t use them,” Dror explains.
Scientific research has found clear links between the way a dog moves and disease. For example, frequent head-shaking may indicate ear infection. Seizures may indicate brain injury (which could be temporary).
Slowness to rise from a supine position strongly indicates joint ill, Dror lists. Frequent scratching at one particular spot signals a "hotspot" - an inflamed lesion. An increased tendency to walk in circles could mean epilepsy. And Oggii's technology can also detect external parasites such as ticks and fleas almost 95% of the time.
Another helpful role is detecting eating and drinking patterns by collecting information about the dogs' chewing habits, and processing it with data about their weight and the food they eat.
For instance frequent drinking and urination, combined with sleep problems disclose diabetes, Dror lists.
Nutritive and motion data taken together can conclude whether Fifi is moving her body in a way that could be damaging. For example, that golden retrievers and Labradors suffer from a genetic defect that causes pelvic damage — which gets worse with climbing stairs, Dror says.
Analysis of the dog’s condition at any given time is based on deviations from a profile of its behavior, comparison with other dogs of the same breed and comparison with benchmarks.
At one level, one could argue that the system sees things that any observant, informed dog owner could notice on his own – in time. The point of the system is to warn the owner of a potential problem well before they could notice, and before it becomes serious. In that, this device isn't just for busy types who wouldn't notice if their dog got run over – it's for all dog owners.
Oggii was developed and programmed specifically for dogs, so it's no use to owners of other kinds of pets, says Dror. Weighing 15 grams and the size of a quarter, it's too big for cats and anyway, he points out, “The algorithm is different." Arguably, it wouldn't pay to develop the system for pet species other than dogs.
That's not a pet, it's family
Is society ready to fork over hard-earned money for digital diagnosis of Bowser? “Dogs have become family," Dror says. "As the global birth rate declines, people are adopting more dogs."
Moreover, westerners fork over extraordinary amounts on their pets.
The global pet care market was estimated at $94.5 billion in 2012. The American market is $55 billion per year, of which 21 percent goes for veterinary care, 30 percent for food and 19 percent on accessories. (In 2012, $5 billion was spent on holiday presents for Pooch.) Dogs and cats make up 90 percent of the market: and dogs make up almost half of that.
The Oggii's battery lasts a year. Once it runs out, the owner must buy a new device. Each costs $4 to produce but the company plans to sell them for $30 a pop. A pilot of the Oggii, with 500 dogs, is planned to start early next year. Dror plans to link up with a multinational brand to handle distribution. Meanwhile, Oggway has recruited celebrity dog coach Tamar Geller to its advisory board.
At a later stage, Oggway plans to offer nutritional consultancy services. “Dogs eat a lot of junk, which leads to weight gain,” Dror says. “In the United States, 91 percent of dogs are overweight. In the past, dogs lived to ten years of age, and today they live to 14 or 15. Dogs don’t reach that age in their best shape, and there are a lot of veterinary expenses. It’s important to keep the dog at its proper weight. For example, golden retrievers must never go over 30 kilograms because if they do, their pelvis suffers damage.”
Oggway, which has eight employees, has raised almost NIS 3 million from angel investors and an incubator, TheTime.