Dear Dr Jody: Our new puppy is scheduled to be neutered next week.
He wears a safety collar and tag, but what are our options for more permanent identification?
What a great question! Permanent identification is extremely important in cats and dogs. Even in well cared for pets, about 30% of cats and dogs will escape or go missing at least once in their lifetime. In many cases, this is a result of the pet slipping out of its collar or leash. Because collars can be easily lost or removed, permanent identification that is guaranteed to remain with your pet can increase the chances that if your pet decides to go on a solo adventure, he or she can be reunited with your family.
There are two main types of permanent identification for pets: tattooing and microchipping.
Because a tattoo can only be performed under general anesthesia, your puppy's neuter date is the perfect time to consider having this done. He will be given a small tattoo in his right ear when he is sleeping. The tattoo is composed of a combination of three to seven letters and digits. This set of letters and numbers is specific to your dog; no other pet in the province will have the same combination of characters. If your pet is found and taken to a veterinary clinic or a humane society, the staff will be able to trace the tattoo back to the clinic that originally placed the tattoo. Your veterinary clinic keeps a database of their tattoos, and, if you have kept your phone number and address current through your pet's original veterinary clinic, your vet will be able to notify you that your pet has been found.
Tattoos have a very good success rate of returning lost pets to their owners. However, because tattoos can occasionally fade over time and become unreadable, microchips are also recommended. A microchip is a tiny digital device about the size of a grain of rice. It is implanted painlessly under the scruff of the neck either in conscious animals or those under anesthesia. Because the chip is not a tracking device such those worn by collared grizzlies, we cannot actually locate the animal with the chip. Rather, once the pet is found and taken to a veterinary clinic or a humane society, the staff will be able to read the chip with a scanner. A special digital code will pop up on the scanner that allows the staff to identify and contact the owner.
Countless stray cats and dogs are found each year and taken to the local humane society. Unfortunately, in most cases, the owners have not kept their contact information current with the tattoo or microchip databases. Consequently, attempts to locate the owners of these pets often fail. In order for tattoos and microchips to have a good chance of returning lost pets to their families, it is crucial that pet owners keep their contact information up to date not only with their original veterinary clinic but also with the microchip company with whom the pet is registered.
Because pets cannot recite their addresses or phone numbers, it is up to pet owners to ensure their furry loved ones are permanently identified. Please contact your veterinarian today for more information on how to protect your pet with a tattoo or microchip.
-- Dr. Jody McMurray, D.V.M., B.Sc.
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