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Advice From Dr. Lindsey: Pet Id Tags

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Authored by: Dr. Lindsey, DVM

It’s very scary to have a lost pet. There are a few ways to help identify your pet that can help them get back to you sooner. 

First, is having your pet wear a collar or harness with an id tag on it. Most people have their dogs wear some sort of collar or harness all the time but it’s especially important when the pet goes outside. I get asked frequently if it’s better for dogs to wear collars or harnesses, or both. Collars are nice because they are easy to put on and take off. They also may be able to give you better control during walks. The bad thing about collars is if they are too loose the dog will slip right out of it. If a collar is too tight it may be painful for the dog or could cause or exacerbate throat issues like a collapsing trachea. 

Some advantages of harnesses are they may be more comfortable to wear, dogs usually can’t get out of them, they can help puppies learn to walk on a leash easier, and less throat issues for small dogs. The disadvantages of harnesses are they can be difficult to put on and take off, if it’s too tight it can be painful, and it may require more physical strength when walking the dog.  Pet stores are generally very accommodating about letting your pet try on a collar or harness to find one that fits and is comfortable for them. 

Lastly, microchipping pets is very valuable to helping them get back home if they get lost. Identification tags on collars are also beneficial but they can break, fall off, or be removed so microchipping is of the utmost importance for pets to have as well. Microchips are tiny, about the size of a grain of rice. Microchips are passive and store a unique identification number for your pet. They don’t actively transmit any information. 

A microchip is implanted with a needle and syringe similar to getting a vaccine, but the needle is larger to accommodate the microchip. It is inserted under the skin between the shoulder blades. Implanting a microchip is fast and safe and can be done at any vet visit. 

After the microchip is implanted, the veterinary office will give you information about the microchip number and how to register it with your information. It’s critical that you register the microchip otherwise it will not be associated with anyone. It’s also very important to update the microchip if you change your contact information or move. If your pet gets lost or picked up by animal control, animal shelters and veterinary offices all have universal scanners to read the microchip number to help you get reunited with your pet quickly. Sometimes microchips will migrate from the location between the shoulder blades so it’s important to have a found pet scanned over the entire body to ensure that the chip is detected if present.


Dr. Lindsey graduated from Colorado State University in 2009 and works in general practice, shelter medicine, and more recently as a civilian contractor veterinarian for the Army. She is also certified in acupuncture and resides in Palm Springs, CA.