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Pet Identification


Mark Hale, DVM

1661 E. Mt. Gilead Road

Bolivar, Missouri  65613





Sometimes even with our diligent care and forethought, our pets manage to become lost.  Whether our beloved companion sneaks under the yard fence, slips out the door when we're not looking, or any one of the thousands of other ways this can occur, they can be gone from our sight almost instantly.  Most of the time, they will return soon with no injuries or fatalities.  But it is all too common for them to become lost or picked up by someone.  If no identification is present, it may be impossible to find you, the owner.


With the appropriate form of ID, your pet can be quickly and hopefully safely returned to your care.  In addition, owners of injured pets can be located more quickly, enabling your veterinarian to immediately begin medical treatment.


Following are some of the most common and useful forms of identification:


v     ID TAG: An identification tag, usually attached to your pets' collar, is the easiest and most visible form. These tags can be metal or hard plastic and should contain at least your name and phone number. Another form of these tags is the rabies tag from your veterinarian. The number and year on the tag will identify your pet in your veterinarian's computer system. The obvious benefit of a tag is that anyone who finds the animal can view the information and help get them home to you. The main disadvantage is that the tag and/or collar can become lost.  The tags can also be easily removed if someone wants to steal your pet. Even with the disadvantages however, an ID tag should always be on any pet that could possibly escape.


v     TATTOO:  A tattoo is a form of permanent ID that can help if your pet is stolen, but because of limited usefulness this practice is seldom used anymore. (In the past this was a common method of ID used by kennels to satisfy USDA requirements.  Most kennels now use microchips instead.)  


v     MICROCHIP: An increasingly popular method of identifying cats, dogs, and horses is the microchip. The chip itself is smaller than a grain of rice and is usually implanted in the top of the neck in dogs or cats and under the mane in horses. It is administered by using a device that looks very similar to the syringe used for your pets' vaccinations. Most animals tolerate the procedure well but a local anesthetic can be used if needed. (A perfect time to have your pet microchipped is while it is being spayed or neutered.)  The chip is read with a "scanner" that tells the specific number contained on that chip. Then the microchip company is contacted so they can tell you how to contact the registered owner of that number. One advantage is that the chip is with the animal for the rest of its life. There is no way for it to become lost or be removed by anyone. The chip may sometimes "migrate" to a slightly different place on the animal, but it is always still present and readable. Most veterinary clinics and animal shelters have scanners that can read all chips made in the US. The main disadvantage is that no one can know there is a chip present without using a scanner to check as they are too small to be felt by palpation. Because of this it is important to do two things: 1) Always keep a visible tag on your pet even if it is microchipped and 2) If you find an animal with no visible ID have it scanned at your local veterinarian or animal shelter.