8 Must-Have Pet Apps (well, maybe 7)

Several years ago, our Corgi, Bedford, devoured an entire box of chocolate truffles when my back was turned. In those pre-Internet days, my only options were to (a) dig out my book on pet first aid (if I had had one and if I knew where it was), (b) scoop him up and rush to the closest veterinary clinic (which wasn't close at all), or (c) call the poison control hotline. I went with (c), followed their advice, and Bedford survived his overdose and lived to  steal forbidden fruit another day. If he had had a potentially life-threatening emergency in the car, however, or out on a walk in the woods, we might not have had such a happy ending.

Fast forward to the age of mobile apps. Wherever you are, you pretty much have whatever pet info you need -- emergency advice, a vet appointment reminder, a recommended hotel or dog park, the list is endless -- literally at your fingertips. If you haven't explored the world of pet apps, now is the time! Here are 8 -- well, maybe 7 -- you should definitely check out.

Keeping the record straight

I have a friend who created a spreadsheet just to keep track of his oil changes. If your response is, “So?” then you're just the hyper-organized type for ThePet Pal. We should all have our pet’s basic information readily available, of course, just in case; and, according to iTunes, this is the best pet app for doing just that. With Pet Pal’s intuitive user interface, you can easily record your pet’s basic information (name, microchip ID – yes, your outdoor pet should have one! – weight, specie, birth date, etc.); schedule everything from vet appointments to feeding schedules to dog park visits to medication reminders; and store important phone numbers. Multiple pets? No problem.

Especially helpful is the integrated map which will guide you to the nearest vet clinic in an emergency, or the nearest groomer if you’ve decided it’s time for a trim, or the closest pet supplies store if you forgot to restock your stash of pet food.

Available on iTunes (free) and Google Play ($2.99).

Just what the (pet) doctor ordered

With Pet First Aid from the American Red Cross, you are always just a few taps away from simple step-by-step advice for everyday first aid emergencies and even disaster scenarios. Explore instructive videos and interactive quizzes. Program your vet’s contact number for immediate access at any point in the app. Know quickly if your pet has eaten something toxic. Even learn how to perform CPR on dogs, from the little guys to the big ones. Pet First Aid will also locate the nearest emergency vet hospital as well as pet-friendly hotels.

Available on iTunes ($.99) and Google Play ($.99)

Missing in action

It’s a pet parent’s nightmare. Spooked by thunder or fireworks, your dog takes off in a panic. Finding a door left ajar, your indoor cat ventures out into the big, wide world and disappears (I speak from experience). The ASPCA Mobile App, from the nation’s number one animal welfare organization, helps pet parents spread the word about a missing (or found) pet. You get a personalized missing pet recovery kit with everything you need to know to search for a lost animal in a variety of scenarios. You can also build a lost pet digital flyer to quickly share on your social media channels. Additional features allow you to store your pet’s medical records and prepare you to cope with natural disasters.

Available on iTunes (free) and Google Play (free)

Another, albeit non-app, option well worth mentioning is the Tagg GPS Pet Tracker. At $100, it’s a bit pricey, but it may give you extra peace of mind if you have a dog who can run free. Tagg will track your dog’s activity level, locate him on a map and even alert you if he strays beyond your preset limits. Tagg’s “Plus” version won a tech safety award for its ground-breaking temperature sensor and alert system. If you live in an area of extreme temperatures, Tagg will alert you when your pet's environment reaches a dangerous temperature, hot or cold. Simply attach Tagg to your dog’s collar.

Available at pettracker.com/pet-products

Have pet will travel

Heading out of town and can’t bear to leave your four-legged friend behind? No worries. Bring Fido will find and book a pet-friendly hotel. It will even tell you the hotel’s pet policy, pet fees and weight restrictions (if any), available amenities and guest reviews. They even have a Best Rate Guarantee! Looking for a great dog park, hiking trail, or beach? A restaurant or local attraction that welcomes pets? BringFido can find those for you, too. Need a dog walker, groomer, sitter, vet or pet supply store? Yup. BringFido is your go-to resource for all of the above. There’s even a photo tab for sharing pictures of your pet enjoying his vacation.

Available on iTunes (free)

A walk in the park

If your dog is a true social animal, Dog Park Finder will make sure you find a pet-friendly park. It will search your current location or specific cities and zip codes. It will also browse parks by state. You even get a map with color-coded dots to alert you to off-leash and on-leash parks as well as those unfortunate "no dogs allowed" parks.  Upgrade to Dog Park Finder Plus for a mere $2, and you get an additional 2500 dog-friendly parks, hiking spots and beaches along with details like restrooms, lights, small-dog settings, and fenced-in areas. Even photos and ratings based on user reviews.

Available on iTunes (free, or upgrade to Plus for $2)

Familiarity breeds . . .a new pet!

Ready for a pet? Or perhaps another pet? As a supporter of our own local humane society, PurSpray Pet Care encourages you to "adopt, don't shop!" Always check out your local shelter first. They have (far too many) abandoned or neglected pets waiting for a loving forever home; but whether you go to a shelter or a breeder, there are two apps that will help you know how to choose the right breed.

If you need help deciding on a canine companion, look no further than Perfect Dog: Ultimate Breed Guide to Dogs. With 2,000 stunning photos and information on over 350 breeds, from rare to popular, Perfect Dog will help you make the right choice. Scroll through breeds or use the “match” feature to search by specific criteria -- lifestyle settings (good with children, minimal shedding) or desired physical attributes (small, curly tail, floppy ears). Seen a dog you like but don’t know the breed? Use the “identify” feature to enter physical characteristics and narrow your search.

The most popular dog app in the iTunes App Store.  Available on iTunes (free; Pro version, $2.99).

If you’ve decided you want to adopt a cat, you probably already know that they come in all shapes, sizes and temperaments.  Some are playful and friendly, others are independent and aloof. Some are good with children, others don’t have the patience for little people. The feline version of Perfect Dog, Purrfect Cat: Ultimate Breed Guide to Perfect Cats (in free and Pro versions)will guide you through your search.  Itboasts the same hi-res photos and everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know about 90 breeds of cats. Enjoy ad-free browsing or enter specific attributes to find your “purrfect” cat. It's definitely the ultimate cat breed app out there.

Available on iTunes (free; Pro version, $1.99).

Just for fun

Dubbed the #1 hit app by iTunes, My Talking Pet will "bring your pet photos to life." Simply take or choose a photo; speak into the mike to give your pet a voice; then share as a video on your social networks or email to friends and family. Why limit yourself to talking animals? Get creative and give your car a voice, or put words in the mouths of your friends.

Based on the ratings on iTune and Google Play, this is a big hit with pet lovers and, hence, its inclusion here; but, honestly, I was not impressed. Check out Google Play’s video and see what you think.

Available on iTunes ($.99) and Google Play ($1.99)