Florence Ion

Florence Ion is the managing editor of Mac|Life magazine, and has also written for Maximum PC and PC Gamer magazines. When not writing about tech, she goes on high-tech adventures with her German Shepherd, Roxy.

News: Guest Posts
App Review: Dog Budget App
Keep track of your doggy dollars

Your pup may not beg you for an allowance each week, but his needs are just as costly as your own. Dog food, grooming appointments, toys, veterinary visits and treats tend to add up over time. The basic expenses for a dog in the U.S. average more than $1,500 per year, according to a 2011–2012 pet owner survey by the American Pet Products Association. And that’s just the absolute basics with no organized activities or training, special care or other unexpected costs.

That's real money, as the say, and worth budgeting. The Dog Budget app helps dog owners keep track of spending and stick to a budget.

For 99 cents, this simple-to-use app enables you to document every item you purchase for your dog by date and a set of pre-determined categories Dog budget “alerts” warn you when you’re teetering over a monthly spending limit. There’s also a pie chart feature that illustrates where you’re spending.


While there are a plethora of general budgeting apps available in the iTunes App Store that do virtually the same thing, they don't feature special categories for dog owners. Dog Budget is a fairly barebones app, but the peace of mind that you’re staying within budget when it comes to your pup is probably worth a dollar.

The app is developed by Andrew Winn, an independent developer based out of the United Kingdom, and is currently only available for the iPhone/iPad.

News: Guest Posts
Apps to Track your Dog’s Medical Details
Florence Ion

How do you keep track of your dog’s medical records? Many of us manage with some combination of a calendar and manila folders jammed with vet records. Finding important information can be frustrating, time-consuming and, in an emergency or when you're away from home, nerve-wracking. Whether your pup has special needs or you just want to keep track of annual checkups and vaccinations, there are a few apps out there that can help. While most keep track of very simple things, such as your dog’s medications and next appointment, a few go a step farther.

For iPhone and iPad users, Dog Medical Agenda stores all of your dog’s medical information (such as microchip information, allergies, last exam, surgeries and medications), including the infrequent visits to the acupuncturist or masseuse. For a new puppy, there’s a vaccinations tab that tracks which shots your dog should be getting at certain stages in his first year of life.


There’s also a tab that hooks up with your veterinarian’s contact information from your iPhone’s address book and stores it for future reference. The best part about Dog Medical Agenda is that you can password protect all of the data. You can then export all of that information into iCal or email it to share with family members or back-up caregivers or dog-sitters.

The only caveat is that each version of the app is priced differently, so you’ll have to pay three times over: $3.99, $4.99, and $6.99 for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac app, respectively. The developers at Jupiter Engineering hope to offer iCloud integration in a future version of the app.

For Android phone and tablet users, Pet Master Pro is the best app for keeping track of your pet’s health information. For $4.99, the app comes with a Daily Log feature that enables you to record information such as your dog’s dietary history, weight and behavior or just keep track of general notes. You can set notification alerts for upcoming appointments.


The app has a nice, clean interface, and also stores typical information, such as allergies, insurance provider and medical conditions. Unfortunately, there are no notifications to help remind you to update the daily logs, which is a shame because there are so many of them.

There’s a free version of Pet Master available, though it’s ad-supported and some of its features are only available as a one-month trial. However—and this goes for both apps—the convenience of having your dog’s vital health information organized in digital format is worth the price of a box of dog biscuits. 

News: Guest Posts
iPhone Game Focuses on Rescuing Pets
Developed with the Humane Society to raise awareness

Teach kids the importance of caring for, and adopting, a shelter pet with this free iPhone game, developed in association with the Humane Society of the United States. In Fluff Friends Rescue,  players retrieve lost pets in the woods, bring them back for a veterinary checkup and a bath, and then place them in a pen to be adopted. It's a time management game that requires players to multitask in order to complete goals and find permanent homes for the animals, but it’s also a great way to open a discussion about the essential role of animal shelters and, more generally, the problems of pet overpopulation with your children.

To make it challenging, Fluff Friends Rescue doesn't start you off with all of the elements you need to run a functioning shelter. As you rescue each pet, you earn money and unlock other features of the game, such as stations to add to your rescue facility and toys to give the animals, and that helps the vitality of your rescue center, as well as the adoptability of your animals.

The game plays a lot like the popular Facebook game, Farmville, and is free to play, which means you'll have to dole out some cash for certain in-app content. You can disable this feature so your child doesn’t accidentally charge your credit card for in-game items, but this will make it difficult to advance further in the game without “grinding”—a mechanism utilized by games in this genre that requires players to do repetitive tasks to rack up points before they can move on to the next task.

As an added bonus, players can purchase special items endorsed by the Humane Society and the net proceeds will be given directly to the organization. The app was developed in conjunction with MindJolt’s Social Gaming Network, a game company that specializes in Facebook and mobile games. You can download Fluff Friends Rescue for free in the iTunes App Store, or play it on Facebook.

News: Guest Posts
Couch Surfing for Dogs
DogVacay seeks the sweet spot between home and kennel

If you’re planning on leaving your dog behind for a few days, you might want to consider leaving him somewhere he can feel at home. While kennels and “dog hotels” are always an option, what about finding something closer to a substitute home?

Enter DogVacay, a new dog-boarding service that strives to provide dogs with the same comfort and care as they enjoy at home. DogVacay is modeled off of similar services that cater to people looking for one-of-a-kind accommodations on a budget, such as Airbnb and Couchsurfing, but for a dog.

The site gives you complete control over your query, from setting your own rates, to finding a place that caters to your dog’s breed and size. Each host has his or her own page, which provides background on how many years the host has cared for dogs, as well as the amenities offered and whether around-the-clock supervision is included. Meet-n-greets are also available. You can also use DogVacay to find dog walkers, trainers, dog day cares folks with a specialty in canine massage.

DogVacay interviews hosts and checks references before posting host profiles to the site, and takes a 5 to 10 percent of host fees collected. There’s also a money-back guarantee and the service also offers $25,000 insurance in case of veterinary emergencies, provided by VCA-Antech. And soon, DogVacay will introduce packages of property and liability insurance for hosts. Prices start around $20 a night, with certain hosts tacking on extras like a bathing rate or a puppy surcharge.

Husband-and-wife-team Aaron Hirschorn and Karine Nissim Hirschorn run DogVacay. They got the idea after their own unsuccessful run at finding sitters for their own pups, Rocky and Rambo, a Golden Doodle and Maltese mutt. “Our dogs are like members of the family and we hated leaving them at the kennel where they would be stuck in a cage all the time—not to mention the great expense,” Karine says.

They tested the concept of dog boarding in their own home by taking in more than 100 dogs over a nine-month period. “Our clients were so passionate about the quality of care their dogs received, that business was booming,” Karine recalls. “We knew we had to make this solution available on a larger scale, and we’re thrilled to have found hundreds of professional and amazing pet care providers who do the same thing.”

Launched in March 2011, DogVacay was originally limited to Los Angeles and San Francisco, but now there are more than 20,000 around the country, with higher concentrations around major metropolitan areas including New York, Miami, Dallas, DC, Chicago and Atlanta.

DogVacay hopes to build a national pet services company that is based on trust and positive experiences from its customers. The Hirschorns hope to create a service that both pet-care providers and casual dog lovers can utilize. “We want real dog lovers that have the best intentions for the animals in their lives, whether it’s a guest dog or a dog they grew up with,” Karine says. “It’s thrilling for us to connect with other animals lovers.”

This piece has been edited since originally posted to reflect corrections.

News: Guest Posts
Can My Dog Eat This?
There’s an app for that

Dogs may be our best friends but that doesn’t mean we can always share our lunch with them. There are plenty of foods that are safe for us but toxic for dogs—so many, in fact, they can be hard to remember. 

Fortunately, there’s a new app called Om Nom? to help us keep track of what foods—and, in some cases parts of foods—should be avoided. For instance, apples are a good source of Vitamin A for your dog, but the stems, leaves and seeds contain substances that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased heart rate, and, if large amounts are ingested, respiratory failure.

The app also provides instruction on what to do if your dog accidentally eats something he wasn’t supposed to. While it’s not a substitute for a veterinarian, it is a guide that can be used preemptively to prevent feeding your dog something that could cause him harm. All of the information featured in the app comes from the developer’s own research based on published papers on toxicology and veterinary medicine from the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Chris Morrell, the brains behind the Om Nom? app, was inspired by his own cluelessness about his new friend, a now three-year-old Havanese named Scottie Pippen. “Once we actually adopted Pip, we quickly realized that neither of us knew the first thing about how to care for him,” Morrell says.  

After his vet ran through the list of foods to avoid, Morrell became concerned about what else might be on the “do not eat“ list. Pip had a strong urge to snap up remnants left on the cutting board, which meant Morrell and his wife were constantly Googling ingredients.

“Each website had a slightly different list, so I figured I’d do everyone a favor and compile the most comprehensive resource available.” Morrell also had a researcher interview Pip’s vet about specific foods when he couldn’t find the information anywhere else.

Om Nom? also includes a Chocolate Toxicity calculator, which pops up when you hit the “chocolate” entry. “The type of chocolate and the weight of the dog are both important factors in how dangerous chocolate is, so I thought an interactive tool would be particularly useful for that entry,” Morrell says. In addition, users can submit requests for missing ingredients or foods to Morrell from the app itself.  

And what about the peculiar name? Om Nom refers to the sound that people make when they’re eating something tasty. (Think: Cookie Monster on Sesame Street).

Om Nom? is a neat utility app for new and veteran dog owners alike, and at 99 cents it doesn’t cost much to ensure your dog is eating right. Currently, available for iPhone and iPad.