Dog Microchips and Identification

It's one of the worst things imaginable: losing a pet. It can make pet owners feel so helpless. The statistics are high and state that one in three pets will get lost. And consider that 90 percent of those that aren't identified won't be recovered.

The old way of looking for a lost pet involved knocking on your neighbors' doors and putting posters up on phone poles. While these tactics can still be very useful, identification systems for animals have almost made them obsolete.

Tagging Your Pet

Most municipalities require pet owners to license their pets and with that comes tags. In addition to these, most pet owners "tag" their pets with their name, address and phone number.

Benefits of tagging your pet:

  • By licensing, you are in the local animal control's database.
  • Pet tags are inexpensive.
  • You can be creative with your pet tag and make it stand out.
  • Updating your information if you move is quick and easy.

Disadvantages of tagging your pet:

  • Tags can fall off
  • If you don't keep your pet's tag up-to-date, he may not be returned to you.

Microchipping Your Pet

Many breeders and humane shelters offer the option of microchipping your pet before you take them home. Your vet can also microchip your dog at any age.

A microchip is placed between a dog or cat's shoulder blades with a needle. Animals stay awake while it's done. It is about the size of a grain of rice so animals aren't aware they've been "chipped." The owner then registers the chip number.

A receiver in the microchip picks up a low-frequency radio wave sent via a scanner, and the identification number in the chip is received, read and then displayed on the scanner. Most vets, rescue centers and animal wardens have scanners, though not all microchips and scanners are compatible.

Advantages of Microchipping:

  • Quick and easy insertion with very little pain.
  • Microchips are compatible with living tissue.
  • Microchips are designed to last for 25 years.
  • Microchips have been proven to aid in pet identification even after prolonged absence.

Disadvantages of Microchipping:

  • Microchips have been know to work free of the skin. Be sure to also have a pet ID tag on your dog or cat at all times.
  • Different places use different scanners. This means that a dog or cat could pass through a shelter without being identified. Luckily, universal scanners are slowly becoming more available. The next step is to adopt the international standard frequency microchip, but that would mean re-microchipping.
  • A microchip is not a GPS device. You cannot follow your pet with it.
  • The insertion can cause problems for some pets.

Pet Identification GPS Tracking Device

GPS Tracking Devices, about the size of a business card - are worn on your pet's collar. You can track your pet's location by calling or texting the device and get his exact location, and even directions.

Benefits of a GPS tracking device:

  • Your pet can be located at almost any locale.
  • The device can direct you in real time so if your pet won't stay still, you can still find him.
  • No insertion under the skin is needed.

Disadvantages of a GPS tracking device:

  • These devices tend to be more expensive than a microchip and can require a monthly subscription.
  • There can be limited cell phone coverage or internet connectivity in some areas.
  • They can come loose from the collar and get lost.

Pet Recovery Services

Pet Recovery Services offer several ways to help you find your pet. Organizations such as Dogster have large networks of members and participants. Combining technology, community resources and social networking, Dogster's Together Tag can help you find your lost pet.

Advantages of pet recovery services:

  • A database of pets, including your own, with information on the pet and the owner. Some work with the major lost pet databases around the country and, thus, provide good coverage.
  • Information and picture of your pet is sent to all members within a certain radius if your pet is lost.
  • A pet recovery service contacts shelters, vets, animal control and more in your area, should your pet go missing.

Disadvantages of pet recovery services:

  • There is no way to track your pet once he's lost (unless members in the community post having seen him).
  • There's no guarantee that members will be of help.

Using pet recovery services in conjunction with tagging, microchipping and/or GPS devices can really help ensure that you find your pet. But don't forget that putting posters up around the neighborhood is still a good way to go.