After this long, cold winter, both pets and owners are excited to get out and enjoy the summer. Long hikes with your dog or sunbathing on the deck with your cat can turn tragic when a pet is lost outside. This can happen to anyone--veterinarians included! I had the terrifying experience of losing a pet twice. The first time, several years ago, my dog was staying with a petsitter and ran through an open fence gate. He was found at a local animal shelter the next day. More recently, our indoor cat sneaked out through an open door; we were fortunate to find him the following afternoon. In both cases, our pets had ID to help them reunite with us.
What can you do to help your pet find his or her way home? Consider using 2 forms of identification:
1) temporary ID - a tag and collar are the most visible form of identification. I have found several lost pets over the years, and a tag with the owner's phone number (not just a license or rabies tag) provided a way to immediately contact the owner. The tag doesn't need a lot of detail--a name and phone number will do. If you travel with your pet, make sure you update the tag with a local phone number or cell number where you can be reached during your trip.
2) permanent ID – collars and tags can fall off or be removed. This is where permanent ID is important. Forms of permanent identification include microchips and tattoos. A tattoo meets the criteria for the permanent ID required to get a lifetime dog license in Pennsylvania; however, if you were to move with your pet, the tattoo may not be easily understood in another state. In addition, anesthesia is required to tattoo a pet. For this reason, tattooing is usually done at the same time as a spay, neuter, or dental cleaning.
Microchips are often a superior choice to tattooing. This small chip (the size of a grain of rice) is implanted under the skin between the shoulder blades. No anesthesia is required to do this. Microchips have no tracking or emitting capabilities; they simply contain a multi-digit number that is unique to your pet. Most animal shelters and veterinary clinics now have scanners that are able to read the microchip number and identify your pet. A simple phone call to the microchip manufacturer will give the shelter your contact information and get your furry friend that much closer to reunion.
A double layer of protection using a collar/tag with a microchip or tattoo is recommended. Collars and tags are available online or at pet supply stores. To discuss microchipping (or tattooing) your pet, give your veterinarian a call. We want to help keep pets safe at home with their families!
Laura Pollock, D.V.M.