Tuesday, December 8, 2009


When researching for this article I was amazed to find out that one in three pets will become lost in their lifetime. That’s frightening. More than one million pets are lost or stolen each year. According to the American Humane Society, only 17% will ever find their way back home again! Many pet owners have a collar on their dog with the dog’s license and identification. They may think that this is enough to bring “Rover” back home again. Sadly it is not. Many times the dog will slip out of his collar or it gets caught on something and he no longer has his identification on him. They end up in an already over crowed animal shelter that can only hold him for a very short time. This is why the shelters are working over time putting millions of animals to sleep because they can’t find their owners.

There are two better ways besides a dog collar to identify someone’s pet. They are micro-chipping and tattoos. I have used both of these methods with my own dogs. There are pros and cons with both. Micro chipping a dog is a permanent way of identification. The only problem with this method is sometimes the micro chip can migrate under the skin and there has not been any long term safety testing with this procedure. A tattoo is also a permanent means of identification. Sometimes, however, the tattoo can smudge and become unreadable.

It has been estimated that over 94% of lost pets who had a micro chip has been reunited with their owners. Microchips are computer chips that are about the size of a rice grain that stores an identification number and transmits that information to an appropriate scanning device. These scanning devices are available to all U.S. animal shelters and veterinary clinics. They read multiple microchip frequencies sold by different microchip manufacturers. All veterinary clinics and shelters scan a lost pet when it is brought in to check for identification.

The procedure for micro chipping a dog is a simple one. Microchips come pre-loaded in a syringe. The veterinarian inserts the needle under the skin between the shoulder blades and injects the chip. The procedure takes less than 10 seconds and is only as painful as a vaccination injection. The chip must then be registered with the company who made the chip. Although your veterinarian's information will be registered with the company, it’s a good idea to register your pet in your own name for faster notification when your lost pet has been found. There will be a small additional annual fee for this but it is well worth it! Microchips are designed to last at least 25 years and do not need replacing.

Many pet owners worry about the safety of a permanent micro chip in their dog’s body. Usually microchips are composed of silicone and encased in glass. The materials used are biocompatible, so rejection and infection are rare. Some worry that the site of the implantation may cause cancer. There has been no proof of this in dogs and cats. Probably the risk of having your dog lost and possibly euthanized is much higher than anything you can worry about a micro chip and its possible side effects!

It’s wise to have your veterinarian check your dog’s micro chip at his annual visit using his scanner to make sure that the chip is working properly. Also confirm your dog’s information with the manufacturer database every year. Contact them if you have a change of address.

Years ago before micro chipping was available, some breeders had their dogs tattooed. There were three main places that they could be tattooed. The inside of the ear, the inside of the thigh of the back leg or the stomach were the most common places. I chose to have my dogs tummy tattooed. The reason I chose this area was because of dogs being stolen and sold to labs for experimentation. A dog that may have had an ear tattooed could easily have that ear removed before selling him to a lab. The same thing is true about a rear leg although this would be a more difficult area to do, it was still done. The stomach was the best place because this is not a place that someone could remove the number from. If you use this method, you must make sure that the numbers are clear and precise as they can smudge and identification is harder with a number that you can’t read. Once a dog is tattooed it is a permanent identification. A lab can loose its license if they have a suspected animal that has a tattoo on it. Federal law does not allow a lab to use a tattooed animal. Professional dog thieves will not steal a dog from a kennel, yard or car that has a warning sign telling them that their dog is tattooed.

Some breeders both tattoo and micro chip their dogs. It is not unheard of that some breeders will tattoo or micro chip their litters before they sell them. This gives the breeder a better peace of mind because some new pet owners may forget to do it themselves.

Listing your tattooed or micro chipped dog with a national registry gives you access to the registry's database and services. Often, registries also work through a network of animal shelters across the country. However, many shelters and laboratories now routinely scan strays they receive for microchips, and even if you haven't listed your dog with a registry, the lab or shelter can still find the owner of a chipped dog by tracing the code number to the veterinarian who implanted the chip.

Part of being a responsible pet owner is assuring that if your dog should get lost or stolen, that he has some form of permanent identification. The chances of your dog finding his way back home is very slim without it.

My rating: tattoos: (4), micro-chips: (4), identification collars: (1)

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