Tracking Devices for Pets: Health Risk Assessment for Exposure to Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields

Animals (Basel). 2021 Sep 17;11(9):2721. doi: 10.3390/ani11092721.


Every year, approximately 3% of cats and dogs are lost. In addition to passive methods for identifying pets, radiofrequency tracking devices (TDs) are available. These TDs can track a pet's geographic position, which is transmitted by radio frequencies. The health risk to the animals from continuous exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMFs) was reviewed. Fourteen out of twenty-one commercially available TDs use 2G, 3G, or 4G mobile networks, and the others work with public frequencies, WLAN, Bluetooth, etc. The exposure of pets to RF-EMFs was assessed, including ambient exposure (radios, TVs, and base stations of mobile networks), exposure from indoor devices (DECT, WLAN, Bluetooth, etc.), and the exposure from TDs. The exposure levels of the three areas were found to be distinctly below the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) reference levels, which assure far-reaching protection from adverse health effects. The highest uncertainty regarding the exposure of pets was related to that caused by indoor RF-emitting devices using WLAN and DECT. This exposure can be limited considerably through a reduction in the exposure time and an increase in the distance between the animal and the RF-emitting device. Even though the total RF-EMF exposure level experienced by pets was found to be below the reference limits, recommendations were derived to reduce potential risks from exposure to TDs and indoor devices.

Keywords: collar; exposure; health risk; lost pets; radiofrequency electromagnetic fields; reunion; tracking device.

Publication types

  • Review