Monday, October 1, 2018

Finding Fido: Tips for Effective Pet Identification.

It's a dog lover's worst nightmare.  Your pet gets out of your yard and the next thing you know, he's missing...completely and totally gone.  You search and search the area, put up posters and call animal control to see if he's been picked up, but nothing pans out and your dog is still missing. 
Nobody likes the above situation, so hopefully this entry will help you avoid it.  There are a few good options for pet identification that will help to get your pet back home should he/she come up missing.  All vets, animal control agencies and rescue groups recommend some form of pet identification, but it's hard to know what is the most effective means of identifying your pet.  Below are three possible options for you.

The basic ID tag- these metal or plastic tags hang from the collar and are engraved with the owner's information.  These are very cost effective, usually costing less than $10 each, and they can be the fastest and most effective way of having your pet returned home.  However, these tags do have a down side.  If your pet is lost, he may find himself in unusual sutiations, such as squeezing under fences or through brush.  It is not uncommon for a dog to be found without the collar and tag that his owner said he was wearing when he went missing.  Collars can come off...and tags can come off of collars.  So while this may be the easiest method of pet ID to use and to change if your information changes, it's not always the most reliable. 

Tattoos- This method of pet ID involves actually making your owner information part of the pet by tattooing it directly onto his skin.  Normally, you would simply tattoo your phone number onto an area of your dog's skin which is the least fur covered.  This is a relatively good method of helping you find your dog, as long as he eventually ends up in a vet's office, animal control shelter or rescue.  But the average citizen may not think to look for a tattoo.  Another down side to this method is..what happens if your phone number changes?  You really have no option but to remove or change the tatoo, which is not only uncomfortable for your dog, but can be costly for you as well.  Finally, another down side to this method is that tattooing is not particularly comfortable during and immediately after the procedure.  Many vets can do the tattoos or can refer you to someone who can, but tattooing is done on dogs under anesthesia and then must heal afterwards. So, while this form of ID may be the most permanent, that may not be a good thing. 

Microchipping- This method of pet ID involves injecting a tiny microchip (about the size of a grain of rice) underneath your dog's skin in the same manner used in giving a vaccine.  The skin forms a small pocket around the microchip to keep it in place.  This chip emmits a signal that can be read by special readers which most vet's offices and animal rescues have.  The reading reveals a registration number.  The chips are registered with the company who makes them and the registration numbers emmited by the chips are linked to your contact information so the company helps to find you and reunite you and your pet.  Microchips are permanent, though they can move around after implantation.  It is relatively easy to change your contact information.  Simply contact the company and update your info.  So, microchips are a pretty good form of ID for your pet. 
There are some down sides to these chips though.  There are a few companies that make them and they make them so that their readers are the only ones that can read their chips, so a reader from one company cannot read chips from another company.  They do make universal readers now, but they are pricey.  The best vet's offices, animal shelters and rescues have access to all the readers or have universal readers so that no matter what chip your dog may have implanted, they'll be able to read it.  Next, reading the chip is done by scanning the dog's body with the reader to see if there is any signal coming from a chip anywhere.  Most chips to provide tags that can be affixed to your dog's collar indicating that a microchip is in place, but without that tag, anyone who finds your lost dog must actually take him/her somewhere to be scanned for a chip, and sometimes, people may not think to do that.  Also, your pet must eventually end up in the hands of a vet, animal control shelter or rescue because the average peson does not have, not ever will have, a reader.  Readers are expensive and not practical for the average person, even the average pet owner, to purchase. Finally, if your dog has beens stolen (it is happening more and more with purebred dogs, unfortunately), even a microchip will not help find him.  They are not GPS locators.  They are simply chips that provide information if scanned.  
For more information on one brand of microchips, click the link below.

All of these methods of pet ID have advantages and disadvantages.  One may be a better choice for you than for someone else.  Small town pets can often do just fine with an ID tag, while larger city pets may do better with the microchip. These methods can also be combined, if you feel the need to be safe about it.  No matter which method you choose, the bottom line is that you increase your chances of finding your lost pet if you use at least one of these methods of pet ID.  

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