Prevention: Pets Gone Missing

Lost Dog FlyerThere is absolutely no feeling like when your pet goes missing. Thoughts of them getting hit by cars, attacked by coyotes, or wandering around scared and looking for you fill your head. It is horrible. In the past, the only thing you could do was put up flyers , contact the local shelters, and hope that your pet would be found. Things have changed drastically, for the better, in the past few years. Technology has made finding your lost buddy (or budd-ette) much easier.

The advent of the microchip has made the most difference. The microchip is injected between the shoulder blades through a large-bore needle. The actual size is a little bigger than a grain of rice. Coded onto the chip is a unique number that can be read with a scanner. In the early days, each microchipping company had their own scanner, which meant if you didn’t have the right scanner, you were out of luck. Now, the vast majority of chips are able to be scanned with a universal scanner. Once the number has been scanned, we look in the universal microchip online database. This site will direct us to the identification of your pet and your contact information. Yea!!!

I do need to tell of one reunion. One day a guy in his late 20’s came in with a sweet little dog. He had found the dog about 6 months before wandering around his apartment complex. He took the dog home and put up flyers, but no one claimed the dog. He heard a news story about microchipping, so he brought the dog in to be scanned. Yes, there was a chip and we found it was registered in Utah. We are in Ohio, some 1,700 miles away. We called the number and spoke to a woman who said that it was her son’s dog. He had moved to Columbus, OH about seven months before for a temporary job assignment, and had lost the dog while he was there. (Even Columbus is about 20 miles away, so the dog had still made a small journey.) She was so excited to hear we found the dog, especially since it was her grandson’s best buddy. The son was now living in Kentucky. We called the son and said he would be up that same evening. So, after a 6 hour drive, the man arrives with his cute little 6-year-old son. You should have seen the look on that boy’s face as he was reunited with his dog. Utter joy. I then looked at the guy who had taken care of this wonderful dog for 6 months. His eyes were misty, but he knew he did the right thing. He kissed the dog goodbye and left. It was a tear jerker of a moment.

Now there are even a rash of companies coming out with GPS collars. They vary in price, but are absolutely great. I haven’t run out and gotten one just yet because I am sure they will quickly get even better and come down in price. There is also PetFBI.org, where people post animals they have lost or found, with location and contact information. Any dog our clients find we post on this site and this has reunited many animals with their owners.

The best prevention advice I have is to make sure to keep your pet on a leash when walking. And, if you have an invisible fence, make sure to check the batteries often because, believe me, your dogs will challenge them when the battery is low. It is best to get on an automatic battery delivery plan. And last, but not least, (and here is my Bob Barker moment) make sure to get your animals spayed or neutered! The most common tie dogs get hit by a car is running to or away from a potential mate.

So, even though it is a stressful time when a pet goes missing, there is a very good chance you will find them. Don’t give up hope, because reunions can take weeks, months, or even years. But the resources to help reunite you are better than before and continuing to improve.

Other posts by Dr. Riggs


Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.


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