Local startup helping veterinarians take animal vital signs brings its product to the zoo

For veterinarians, taking an animal’s vital signs is time-consuming. And for the animals – oftentimes domestic cats and dogs – the process can cause anxiety, which can be dangerous for both the animal and the vet.

Just ask doctor of veterinary medicine, Brittany Rizzo.

“The traditional methods of taking vital signs require the animal to be manipulated,” says Dr. Rizzo. “Even simply placing a stethoscope on a dog or cat can be stressful for the animal, especially if they are already in pain. This in turn can also lead to stress and pain for the clinician trying to collect the information if the animal feels their only option is to fight.”

Now imagine the complexity a vet at the zoo faces when taking those same vitals for a snow leopard or a lion. Dr. Rizzo is director of animal health at the Akron Zoo and says the danger can be so great, vets simply cannot take these vitals when the animals are awake.

“Traditional monitoring equipment needs to be removed prior to dangerous animals recovering from a procedure in order to ensure the safety of the animals and the people as the animal wakes up,” Dr. Rizzo says.

She added that this time – when the animal is recovering from anesthesia – is both one of the riskiest phases of  anesthesia and when monitoring can be vitally important.

But Vik Ramprakash, founder of Structured Monitoring Products (SMP), is making the process of taking vital signs easier and safer. The company’s VetGuardian™ monitor remotely gathers vital signs, including temperature, pulse and respiration of sick, injured or post-operative animals.

The wireless process removes the time-consuming tasks of assessing and documenting the data while eliminating the probing that can cause anxiety and pain for the animals, all while keeping veterinarians safe.

“The biggest pain point for any vet is to monitor the animals,” says Ramprakash. “So we developed a system that is completely wireless, lessening that burden.”

The company, located in Lorain County Community College’s Desich Business and Entrepreneurship Center, is a Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE) client company and Innovation Fund recipient. Ramprakash and his team have received guidance and support to build and improve upon the first iteration of its product.

“The biggest thing with GLIDE has been its advisory role,” says Ramprakash. “When we were trying to integrate Alexa, we received guidance, and now it can work with Alexa and let you know something is wrong with a pet.”

In 2018 the SMP team wrapped up successful beta testing at the Lorain Animal Clinic.

“The testing went very well; our prototype had 92% accuracy when compared to the control heart rate and respiration of the animal,” Ramprakash says.

Since then SMP has sold 21 VetGuardian monitors to veterinary hospitals around the United States. And to conduct further clinical testing, the company is venturing into a new market – the captive wild.

Ramprakash and Scott Ijaz, who’s leading the next phase of clinical testing, demonstrated their product for the Akron Zoo team two years ago and Ijaz has been working with the vets there ever since. So far, they have tested VetGuardian on over 25 species, including a snow leopard, African lion, Komodo dragon, and eagle.

“I could see the benefits of VetGuardian right away,” Dr. Rizzo says. “It monitors the vital signs of an animal without any contact, sounds, or vibrations. This allows for continuous monitoring through the recovery phase of anesthesia as well as when the animal was awake, which was previously not possible with large dangerous animals.”

While mitigating danger is always a priority for zoos and veterinarian offices, Ijaz says safety is an even greater concern today because of the coronavirus, which has been found in pets.

“There’s more awareness of viruses that can be transmitted between animals and humans,” he says. “VetGuardian also monitors temperature so vets can detect infection earlier, and by eliminating contact we’re lessening transmission rates.”

Ijaz says the company is focused on small veterinary offices and zoos for now, but he knows the applications for VetGuardian are wide open.

“We have plans to next enter into agriculture and farming, taking vitals for cows and horses. There are so many ways we can use this product to help monitor animals while keeping those who care for them safe.”

Learn more information about GLIDE, or VetGuardian.