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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

Three Best Ways to Prevent Losing Your Pet

For you, July 4th is another celebration of the United States’ independence and a chance to eat hotdogs. For your dog it’s the apocalypse, or the start of World War III, or maybe just a good old fashioned Armageddon. Regardless of the canine interpretation, suffice it to say that the Fourth of July is not a joyous day for many pets, and is in fact the number one day for frightened animals to run off into the great blue yonder.

 

It makes sense, then, that July is designated “Lost Pet Prevention Month,” since July is also not-so-coincidentally Lost Pet Month. People always ask me what the best way is to keep your dogs (and cats) identified, so let’s take a look and review some of the different options out there:

 

1. Pet Tags

 

Far and away the simplest means of identifying your pet is through the standard little collar tag with your pet’s name and your phone number.

 

Some manufacturers like PetHub have taken it a step further and actually embedded a QR code right onto the chip, so you can include information such as medical problems, veterinarian contact information, and multiple contact numbers, all linked to the tag. If your pet hates jingling tags, you can get a collar with basic contact info embroidered right onto it.

 

Pros: inexpensive, easy, doesn’t require additional effort on the part of the person who finds the pet

 

Cons: Only works if the pet is wearing the collar

 

2. Microchips

 

The gold standard in lost pet reunification, we’ve all heard tales of the cat who disappeared in Poughkeepsie in 2001 and reappeared in Tallahassee in 2012 to be reunited with their thrilled owners thanks to a microchip. Most shelters embed the small chip (about the size of a grain of rice) under the skin as a matter of course before the pet goes to its new home.

 

Pros: Pets who are microchipped and wind up in shelters are reunited with their owners at a 75% rate.

 

Cons: If the shelter scanner doesn’t pick up on the chip due to migration of the chip or a faulty scanner, or the pet is found by a person who doesn’t take the pet to a shelter for scanning, it doesn’t work as intended. Owners must remember to update their information after a move.

 

3. GPS Tracking Devices

 

GPS tracking devices are one of the hottest new pet gadgets on the market.

 

With Whistle’s acquisition of Tagg earlier this year, the Whistle brand is positioned to be the dominant device on the market this year. These devices work with local cell phone carriers and Bluetooth to provide real-time tracking through a mobile app, as well as activity monitoring so you know how much exercise your pet is (or isn’t) getting.

 

Pros: Immediate feedback on location of pet, helpful for those escape artists who jump high and run fast

 

Cons: Must pay monthly service fee to maintain location service; requires regular charging to maintain battery life

 

 

When people ask me what the best choice is for their pet, it’s hard to answer because the general answer is “all three.” Each identification option works in entirely different ways depending on who finds the dog, so there’s no reason you can’t be using multiple forms of redundant identification on the same pet.

 

At the end of the day, none of these identification methods are better than preventing the dog from getting lost in the first place. Last month Brody ran out of the front door when one of the kids left it open a crack and I didn’t notice it for about half an hour. I went out front, heart pounding, and called his name, and out he trotted from the neighbor’s courtyard, where he was visiting.

 

“Oh, I didn’t know you had a dog!” said the neighbor, to my delight (he must not be barking too much when I’m gone!). “He’s so sweet, we were going to keep him!”

 

Thank goodness for recall! 

 

 

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang

 

 

Image: Jaromir Chalabala / Shutterstock

 

Comments  1

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  • Lost Cats
    07/07/2015 10:22pm

    Friendly dogs will likely trot right up to a human if they have escaped.

    Unfortunately, not so with cats. Most kitties that aren't used to strangers or being outside, will hide. You can walk right past the shrub, calling their name and you'll never know it.

    I used to put tags on my indoor-only kitties that said, "If I'm outside, I'm lost" one one side and my information on the other. It finally dawned on me that someone would have to get close enough to the cat to read the tag. Most likely isn't going to happen. :-(

    So all mine are microchipped. I can only hope that #1 they never escape and #2 they are scanned for a chip. (I know my vet scans for chips when a former stray is taken for a physical.)

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