Decoding Your Dog Using Wearable Technology

Remember the old Dr. Dolittle stories? A doctor discovers he has the ability to talk to and understand animals. While humans can’t yet decipher animal language, researchers have found a way to bridge the gap of communication using wearable technology.

Researchers at Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) are working with Norcross-based animal technology company AGL to develop a platform that combines dog behavior algorithms built at GTRI with sensors and data-sharing capabilities. AGL Vetrax is the first system sophisticated enough to distinguish and quantify various dog behaviors.

“Multi-dimensional data is collected from a sensor that is mounted on a dog’s collar. The data is then processed through an animal behavior algorithm that quantifies the behaviors associated with the dog – for example scratching, shaking, running, walking," said Georgia Tech Research Engineer Jason Zutty, who developed the quantified behavior algorithms. "These quantified behaviors are reported to the veterinarian to best manage wellness and chronic care programs for their animal patients.”

Monitoring a dog’s behavior is one of the most challenging problems faced by veterinarians, and pet owners who may not be at home for most of the day. Behavior such as excessive scratching can be an indicator of allergies to food, environment, or insects.  

“Even though we have a standard itchiness scale that we hand owners and ask them to rate the level of itchiness, it is still based on our observations,” said Dr. Joel Griffies, veterinary dermatologist at Animal Dermatology Clinic in Marietta. “So the nice thing about this device is, it allows us to have a much more objective measurement that doesn’t require human observation.”

Animal Dermatology Clinic is testing AGL Vetrax by sending the sensor device home with pet owners and collecting data. Veterinarians will recommend the sensor device for dogs that need to be regularly monitored, including those with dermatological conditions, arthritis or obesity. They can then monitor the effects of therapies in real time. 

“My hope is a new approach to data-driven medicine,” said Zutty. “All of this data is out there and we can learn and take action from what the data tells us. If you have different patient descriptors you can look at how different courses of treatment affected similar patients. This enables a physician to make much better, more confident treatment plans.”

AGL President and CEO Marcel Sarzen, who is also a Georgia Tech alumnus, called the animal behavior algorithms the company’s “special sauce.”

“I always had this vision that I could go down to Georgia Tech, and with all of the great capabilities that they had down there, license some sort of intellectual property and bring it into one of my ventures that I was going into. And that became true here with AGL,” he said.

AGL Vetrax is expected to become more widely available to veterinary clinics later this year.

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Alyson Powell
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