Aside from your dog being wise to the old hiding pills in a piece of cheese trick, the busy schedules of pet parents, frequent dose changes and medication side effects can sometimes make it difficult to make sure Fido gets the proper care when it comes to prescriptions.
“For Riley, chemo was three different drugs, but he was also suffering some pain from his amputation… He was also on three or four different pain medications to try and control that as well until we could get that wrapped up,” Dr. Jason King, veterinary neurologist with Live Oak Veterinary Neurology on Stephenson Avenue, said of caring his rescue dog Riley after he developed a tumor on his left front leg.
When Riley started experiencing side effects from the chemo and doses changed from week to week, King took things into his own hands and developed Heel!, a new mobile and web app designed to help pet parents communicate seamlessly with their veterinary care team.
“It’s a cross-platform product… The control over the name of the drug, the amount of the drug and how frequently it’s given is still in the hands of the veterinarian and that’s done through a web portal,” King said of the app, which sends push notifications for dosage reminders and changes to dose amounts. After downloading the app, entering your pet’s information and selecting your doctor and the vet’s office takes care of the rest.
“It allows them to make those changes on the fly if necessary and they’re immediately sending different push notifications. Now your smartphone will not only tell you the drug is due, but it will remind you the current dose it and facilitate that communication between the veterinarian and the client.,” he said.
There are other apps that help pet parents with medication, but King said those apps require the user to enter all of the information, which can still be cumbersome and often forgotten. If your vet’s office isn’t a member of the Heel! network you can still download and use the app, but will have to input reminders manually.
“I subscribe medications all day, every day for my patients that are on chronic medications. They come in and I’ll tell them to bump it up to 1.5 tablets instead of one, but then they have to remember that when they go home,” he said.
“If they don’t remember that and look at the bottle and they’re going to go back (to what the bottle says).”
Veterinarian offices will pay a subscription fee to be a member of the Heel! network and encourage pet parents to download the app to communicate with the office. Numerous offices can be listed as caretakers, so if your pet has to visit specialty or emergency clinic within the network all of the offices stay in the know.
“If you have to go to the emergency clinic and you wind up having to get a prescription you can add them as a caretaker and they can adjust medications and see what medications your pet is currently on because whoever remembers to bring the drugs when they come in?,” King said.
“And when they make adjustments I (as the primary vet) can see it as well and see how the profile changes.”
The client still has control over their pet’s medical records, so if you move you can add or remove caretakers as needed. Having a clear network of communication no matter where you are helps keep the focus on the pets and keeps them healthy, King said.
“That way everybody works together as a network and as a team still focused entirely on that pet and patient, so that’s why we’re calling it the Heel! network.”
Kennels and pet sitters can also be added to give pet parents a little more peace of mind if they’re traveling.
“… If you were to have a pet sitter when you’re out of town you should be able to sign in and see that the medications are being given the way you want them to be given,” King said.
The five offices inside the 335 Stephenson Ave. location along with 10 other area vet offices will be beta testing the app, which is being designed by local software development company Oak.Works, for the next few weeks. For now app is geared towards dogs and cats, but will be expanded for use with other animals like horses, cattle and exotic animals once testing is completed. King hopes to launch the app nationally after the New Year.
Additionally, King hopes to add vaccine reminders along with the ability for doctors to upload vaccine records, a feature to alert users when pets go missing in their area or when a pet is found and more social and interactive features such as tracking seizure activity, blood sugar levels or pet personality tests.
“It’s all going to be about trying to make it as easy for people as we can, but then trying to make it fun and interactive as well,” King said.
“… Everybody thinks of their pets as family members more and more. That mindset has really shifted in the last five to 10 years and the goal would be to try and facilitate that and make it easier on people to do so. Owning a pet isn’t cheap and I personally consider it a privilege, not a right and I’d love to see people better able to take care of their pets.”