Pet IDs help lost pets find their way home

Have you ever experienced the heartache of losing a beloved pet? Not loss due to death but loss due to an animal escaping.

Maybe it is human nature but it seems when a pet goes missing we tend to fear the worst. We fear our dog may have been hit by a car or got into something that is poisonous to her.

When I first started working at Hardin County Animal Control, I remember receiving in a stray. Our first course of action was to scan the dog for a microchip. Sure enough, the dog had a registered microchip. We contacted the owner who lived in Louisville who hurried to the shelter to confirm the identity of the dog. When he arrived, he told us the story of how the dog went missing two years ago. They never expected their dog would show up after two years much less in another county!

Having appropriate pet identification is important to ensure the return of your beloved pet.

Here is a quick rundown on the different types of identification often used on dogs.

Personalized dog tags (engraved, RFID, or QR coded)

We recommend your dog wear a collar with personalized identification tags and rabies tags on display. However, this should not be the only method of identification used because collars can go missing when a dog escapes. Tags with RFID technology or QR codes can be scanned with compatible scanners or software. Your personal information is encoded in the system and your dog can be returned to you. Of these two options, I like the QR codes because of the availability of QR code readers in mobile phones. FurCode and PetHub have QR code dog tags available.


In the military, all of the military working dogs receive an ear tattoo for identification purposes. The dog is given a name and the surname of the dog is the tattoo number. What I like about tattoos is that they are permanent. Unfortunately, the person who finds your dog might not know to look for the tattoo.

Dr. Karen Becker from Mercola HealthyPets tattoos all of her pets. In her blog, she wrote that there are databases that register tattoos. Registering the tattoo with these companies can increase the chances of your dog being returned to you. The companies she referenced include “AKC Reunite, the National Dog Registry, or Tattoo-a-Pet” (Becker, 2015).


When I was in the military, every dog that passed through our clinic was required to have a microchip. Microchips use RFID technology. They are a little bigger than a grain of rice and fit inside the bore of a 14 gauge needle. Standard protocol is to inject the microchip under the skin between the shoulder blades.

While the microchip manufacturer’s will tell you the injection process is as painful as receiving routine vaccinations, I can tell you from experience it is not. In administering vaccines, technicians typically use 25 gauge needles. To get a blood sample for a heartworm test, a 20 gauge needle is used for small veined dogs and an 18 gauge needle is used for dogs with larger veins. A 14 gauge needle is much bigger, it leaves a hole in the skin at the injection site, and dogs typically feel the pain much more than a vaccination.

Some veterinarians prefer to microchip a pet using local anesthesia to lessen the experience for the animal. Others may wait to microchip a pet until it is under anesthesia for a small surgery like a spay or neuter.

Microchips are wonderful for helping a lost pet find its way home. Like the story in the introduction, trained personnel can scan the dog for a microchip, locate the microchip number, and look it up in the registry.

The downside is that pet owners must register their pets. A microchip will do absolutely no good if it isn’t registered. So make sure you do that as soon as you get home from the veterinarian after your pet has been microchipped.

Another downside to microchips is that they frequently migrate from the injection site. This means that a chip is supposed to stay between the whithers but can sometimes roll around and end up in other places. Because of this, shelters and veterinary personnel must be trained to scan the whole animal when searching for a microchip.

If you want to increase your chances of getting your beloved fur-baby back after she goes missing, make sure you use at least two of the identification methods described above.


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