Startup AGL launches dog-collar for remotely tracking chronic illnesses

Dog owners whose pets have chronic illnesses often struggle to ascertain the meaning of certain behaviors, such as shaking, excessive drinking or scratching. Now a Georgia-based startup is offering a high-tech solution to the problem: a collar attachment that will transmit details about dogs' activities directly to their veterinarians.

The company, called AGL, has dubbed its device Vetrax. Once Vetrax has been attached to a dog's collar, it starts collecting data, which is then transmitted wirelessly to the cloud, according to a press release from the company. Using genetic information on canine behavior, Vetrax's algorithms detect when a dog's behavior has gone out-of-whack, at which point the system alerts that pet's veterinary office. The product is now being tested in some veterinary clinics that specialize in dog care, the company says.

"Vetrax is the first system sophisticated enough to distinguish the act of scratching from running," says Joe Young, chief operating officer of AGL, in a press release. "Altogether, this makes it possible for veterinarians to proactively review patient information and reach out to the owner to recommend action that could make a vital difference in that dog's health."

Vetrax is the latest entry into the booming market for remote-monitoring tools designed to make it easier for pet owners to communicate with their veterinarians in between office visits. Several mobile apps have been launched in recent months that allow users to chat with vets, including Vet on Demand, Vet24Seven and Kuddly.

Fitbit-like wearables for dogs have also proven popular among technology developers. Researchers at North Carolina State University created a handle for guide dogs that monitors heart rate and breathing, so their owners can obtain information on their dogs' stress levels. And last year, i4C Innovations launched the Voyce Health Monitor, a collar that collects data on vital signs such as respiratory rate and heart rate, as well as activities such as sleeping and walking. Voyce recently caught the attention of Zoetis ($ZTS), which is using the device in a one-year study on pain management in dogs with osteoarthritis.

AGL says it is developing Vetrax with the help of an advisory board of veterinarians and other experts. The company secured $3.5 million in funding after appearing at the Kansas City Animal Health Investment Forum in the fall. It is currently seeking strategic partnerships, according to the release, and it plans to market its wearable more widely through veterinary offices later this year.

- here's AGL's release