Veterinary Viewpoints: The best gift for pets and their owners

Story by Kimberly Carter, D.V.M., an associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences and leads its shelter surgery program at the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine’s Veterinary Medical Hospital

This holiday season, give your pet the best gift — a collar with identification tags and a microchip.

Unfortunately, when pets wander away or escape from home, many are never found again. Often pets are picked up by an animal control officer or dropped at an animal shelter by residents. The reclaim rate from animal shelters for dogs ranges from 17 to 30 percent and for cats from 3 to 5 percent.

A collar with an ID tag offers a finder a way to immediately contact you. All collars should be designed with safety/break-away construction so pets won’t get the collar caught on something and choke. ID tags are available online or made to order in many pet shops and veterinary offices.

Cats can learn to wear a collar and identification tags. Cat tags are usually smaller and made of material that won’t jangle if your kitty likes to make midnight dashes through the house.

A rabies tag is not sufficient identification for a pet. That’s not true because veterinarians cannot give out clients’ private information. In addition, veterinarians are usually only open during regular business hours and closed when your pet is most likely to go missing — on holidays, when your house is busier than normal, or on weekends.

An implanted microchip provides a worry-free, permanent, 24/7 form of identification. They are especially useful to prove ownership. Most shelters require proof of ownership when you come to reclaim your pet — either veterinary records or current photos of you and your pet together.

There are, however, drawbacks to microchips. Owners must register the chip at the time it is implanted and keep their contact information current in the microchip’s databases. Today, many animal shelters microchip the animals before placing them up for adoption. The new owner must update the records naming themselves as the pet’s owner. If they do not, a scanned chip leads only to a dead end.

Another disadvantage is that most people do not have a way to read the chip. Shelters and most veterinary clinics will read and scan chips for recovered pets but this delays the chance you will immediately get your pet home. An ID tag in combination with an up-to-date microchip help increase your chances of getting your lost pet back.

If your pet escapes or wanders off, it is best to look locally. Most pets are found in a three- to five-mile radius from their home. Knock on doors and tell all your neighbors your pet is missing. Post information on your social media accounts, post fliers in your neighborhood, and notify your local shelter and veterinarian’s office. Be persistent and visit your shelter every day. Remember, a collar with an ID tag and a microchip are your best resources to get your pet safely home. So give your pet the best present ever today with an ID tag and a microchip.

Veterinary Viewpoints is provided by the faculty of the OSU Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. 

OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine is one of 30 accredited veterinary colleges in the United States and the only veterinary college in Oklahoma. The college’s Boren Veterinary Medical Hospital is open to the public and provides routine and specialized care for small and large animals. The hospital offers 24-hour emergency care and is certified by the American Animal Hospital Association. For more information, visit https://vetmed.okstate.edu or call (405) 744-7000.

Oklahoma State University is a modern land-grant university that prepares students for success. OSU has more than 34,000 students across its five-campus system and more than 24,000 on its combined Stillwater and Tulsa campuses, with students from all 50 states and around 100 nations. Established in 1890, Oklahoma State has graduated more than 275,000 students to serve the state of Oklahoma, the nation and the world.