AI-powered pet advice app, plus Australia on alert for Indonesian livestock diseases and more
Australian correspondent for dvm360® reports on an AI-based app for pet owners and outbreaks of foot and mouth disease and lumpy skin disease in neighboring Indonesia
AI-powered app offers personalized advice to pet owners
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit Australia in early 2020 and her veterinary practice adapted by splitting her staff into separate shifts for weekly/weekly work schedules, the veterinarian Nicole Su, BSc, BVMS MANZCVS (Unusual Pets) had spare time and got involved in the development of Upilio, an innovative app for pet owners.
“I’ve been in an exotics-only clinical vet practice since graduating in 2014, and when my vet practice transitioned to a team system with weekly/weekly scheduling at the start of the pandemic, I found myself in the unprecedented situation of not having enough to do during my week off,” Su said. “Then I heard from a friend about the work computer programmer Nick Ihab was doing to develop an AI [artificial intelligence]–pet tips app.
“I felt the idea of automating a small personal pet assistant in your pocket could benefit both pet owners and their vets, increasing the vet-patient-client relationship.”
The premise of Upilio came about when Nick Ihab, BSc, made the impulsive decision to have 2 baby guinea pigs, only realizing afterwards that he didn’t know how to care for them.
After contacting some online communities, Ihab realized that this was a common problem and that while the answers to many of his questions needed to come from a veterinarian, they didn’t need to be answered. to come from a veterinarian only during a consultation – and they could potentially be stored in a database that people could access at any time.
“For example, many questions were about which fruits and vegetables can be safely eaten by guinea pigs, and there is a lot of conflicting advice online due to the ability of any random person to present their opinion as fact on the internet. “Su said. “When I joined Upilio, the app was a very basic database and profile creator, but we are planning a complete feeding and breeding solution that encompasses the majority of pet species a once we get funding.”
“An important part of the app will be a pet food search tool that takes into account allergens, special needs such as skin health, age, breed and size. [There will] also in-system alerts for queries requiring consultation, encouraging owners to follow up with their primary care veterinarian.
Su and Ihab also plan to integrate alerts into the app that would notify pet owners when to schedule an appointment for their pet by tracking metrics such as weight fluctuations and food intake, as well as remind pet owners of their pet’s vaccinations and review appointments. Upilio is seeking additional seed funding to help with app development and will launch a web-based version of its dog food finder later in 2022.
Su said the past 2 years have been a rewarding experience as her veterinary expertise complements Ihab’s technological know-how.
“The combination of our veterinary and programming background makes it really unique, and basically what Nick does with the pet food research program is trying to replicate my own mental algorithm for recommending commercial diets when I’m introduced with a particular patient,” Su explained. “A large part of our working time consists of [me] explaining what I do in a veterinary sense in different situations and finding a way for us to present this information in a way that helps owners understand and is also tailored to the specific needs of their pet. »
“We hope to apply this concept to several challenges pet owners face, but always in a way that reminds them that their primary care veterinarian should always be their pet’s primary advocate and that encourages pet owners seek advice from veterinarians instead of influencers, breeders or pet store employees.
Australia on high alert amid lumpy skin disease and foot and mouth disease outbreak in Indonesia
Recent outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in cattle1 and lumpy skin disease2 in Indonesia prompted Australian Veterinary Director Mark Schipp to remind Australian farmers and veterinarians to be vigilant against diseases, which are not currently present in Australia.
Foot-and-mouth disease is a contagious viral disease that affects cattle, sheep, goats and pigs, and prior to the current outbreak, Indonesia had been free of the disease since 1986. Lumpy skin disease is a viral disease of cattle and water. the buffalo which was previously restricted to Africa; however, since 2019 the disease has spread across China and Southeast Asia. If either disease were to arrive in Australia, there would be devastating consequences for the livestock industries and the animal trade.
The Australian Veterinary Association has also warned that Australia’s shortage of vets in rural and regional areas could put the country’s biosecurity at risk, with insufficient veterinary capacity to respond to any potential outbreaks.3
The Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment regularly disseminates information updates on foot and mouth disease and lumpy skin disease to veterinarians and livestock industry groups.
- Media Statement: Foot and mouth disease detected in Indonesia. Press release. Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment. May 9, 2022. Accessed May 26, 2022. https://www.awe.gov.au/about/news/media-releases/media-statement-foot-and-mouth-disease-detected-indonesia
- Australia’s chief veterinarian will travel to Indonesia for animal health cooperation talks. Press release. Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment. March 23, 2022. Accessed May 26, 2022. https://www.awe.gov.au/about/news/media-releases/aus-chief-vet-visit-indonesia-animal-health-talks
- Brown A, Sinclair S. Shortage of vets jeopardizes Australia’s biosecurity as foot-and-mouth disease looms. ABC News (Australian broadcast). May 10, 2022. Accessed May 26, 2022. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-05-11/vet-shortage-a-biosecurity-risk-as-foot-and-mouth-disease – professions/101052600