How to keep up with your own pet

Published 2:08 pm Monday, July 18, 2011

By DR. FRED SELF / Veterinarian

For as long as people have had pets, the pets have tended to wander off. This creates three big problems.

First, a member of the family is no longer around. Second, the pet is out in a world where they are unprepared to cope with supplying their own needs. And finally, there can be an ownership issue if the pet meets up with another family before the original owner finds it.

There are now several options available to prevent these problems from occurring.

The most basic form of identification available for pets is tattooing. This method has been used for almost as long as the process of tattooing has been around. The benefit to this method is that the tools required are simple, and finding the identifying mark when necessary is simple. However, it is necessary to have some means by which to prove who placed the tattoo in the first place. Also, a tattoo cannot help a pet find its way home or an owner track down a pet.

An upgraded version of the tattoo is the microchip. Microchips can individually identify a pet. Whereas a tattoo might be duplicated (A3 on my doberman and A3 on your poodle) each microchip is specific to one pet. Microchipping also solves the problem of supplying original owner information.

The complication with microchipping is that finding a microchip in a pet is difficult without a scanner. The companies that produce microchips get around this complication by supplying shelters and veterinarians with scanners for free. But even with microchips, we have no way to track a lost pet.

A new possibility for preventing the loss of a pet is GPS tracking. Several companies now have lightweight GPS devices that can be attached to a pet’s collar.

With these devices in place the pet can be followed from a computer or smart phone in real time. The technology is not only able to provide the pets whereabouts and their trail, but can also text or email to let you know that they have left a previously defined location. Complications with a tracking device include loss of the device and the chance that the device may not be present when the pet walks away.

At this time, combining a tracking device and microchip is the most likely way to get your lost pet back.

Dr. Fred Self is a veterinarian at Shelbiana Animal Clinic, along with Dr. Charles Thornburg. You can reach him at 669-7717.