Veterinary Blog

The Importance of Identification for Your Pet


We hope it never happens, but if your dog or cat ever escapes and becomes lost, what can you do to help make sure your pet will get back home?

A collar with an up-to-date ID tag with your current address and phone number (ideally a cell number) is a good start, but providing your pet with a permanent form of identification can give you a better chance of recovering your pet.

By having your pet microchipped or tattooed, you’re taking a proactive step to help get your pet safely back home if he or she ever becomes lost.

What’s a Microchip?

About the size of a grain of rice, a microchip is a tiny transponder that has a unique 9-, 10-, or 15-digit identification number or code associated with it. The microchip, encased in bioglass, is implanted just under the skin between a dog or cat’s shoulder blades. Bioglass is a safe material that’s used for implants in both animals and humans.

When a veterinarian or veterinary technician scans the microchip using a special handheld device called a scanner (or reader), the chip is activated briefly and transmits its ID number, which is then displayed on the scanner. This unique code is used to identify the microchip manufacturer’s registration database where the pet owner’s information is stored, and the owner can be contacted.

Will a Microchip Hurt My Pet?

The injection may pinch a little but should not hurt much more than a vaccination. Your veterinarian will use a hypodermic needle to quickly and safely implant the chip. The procedure can be done during a regular veterinary visit or, if you prefer, at the same time as your pet’s spay or neuter surgery.

What Are the Benefits of a Microchip?

Unlike ID tags, which can fall off, a microchip stays with your pet permanently. Microchips have no moving parts or batteries and are designed to last for a pet’s lifetime.

If your pet gets lost, a microchip provides you with the assurance that your pet will be identified and find his or her way back to you, with help from a veterinarian or shelter. After making sure a pet doesn’t have any injuries or need immediate medical help, the first thing most shelters or veterinarians do when they find a lost pet is to scan the pet for a microchip.

We recommend microchips for all pets, even those who are indoor only. That way, you’ll be prepared, just in case your pet accidentally gets outside.

What Doesn’t a Microchip Do?

Microchips are not GPS devices, so they can’t track your pet’s location.

Microchips also don’t replace the need for a collar and ID tags. Most people who find a lost pet will first check for ID tags and contact the owner if the information is up-to-date. But if a pet isn’t wearing a collar or the pet’s collar or tags came off, having a microchip offers another way to find the owner.

Microchips do not have the owner’s personal information on them. To retrieve the owner’s contact information, the microchip registry needs to be accessed.

What Are ID Tattoos for Pets?

Like microchips, tattoos are another safe, permanent form of identification for pets. Each ID tattoo includes a unique series of numbers and letters that are tattooed on the pet’s stomach or inside of the hind legs. These areas are used because they tend to have less hair; however, the area may need to be shaved (and kept shaved afterward) to make sure the tattoo can be seen.

The dyes used in the tattoo ink don’t have side effects, but the tattoos can be changed with a permanent marker. People may also not be aware of pet tattooing, so this identification method works better when combined with both a microchip and a collar with an ID tag.

Tattoos and microchips offer an added layer of insurance that your pet, if lost, will be returned home to you.

The Key to Microchips or Tattoos?

For a microchip or tattoo to be effective, it needs to be registered in the manufacturer’s database, and, even more important, your contact information needs to be kept up-to-date. If your information isn’t current, it won’t matter if your lost pet is found because the shelter or veterinarian won’t be able to find you.

We recommend microchipping or tattooing for all pets. Give us a call today so we can schedule your pet’s microchipping or tattooing. If you have questions about either procedure, we’d be happy to answer them.

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