My heart always skips a beat when I see a “Lost Pet” flyer in the neighborhood. That sinking feeling when you look around the house and your pet is nowhere to be found is the absolute worst. You call their name, look under beds, stand in the front yard calling their name, roam the neighborhood…nothing.
And then you wait.
According to the National Humane Society, 1 out of every 3 pets will be lost at some point in their lifetime. Every year, 10 million pets go missing. It can happen even to the most cautious of pet owners- doors accidentally left ajar, a gate that doesn’t latch all the way, or a panicked pet reacting to fireworks.
Accidents happen to everyone, so it’s best to prepare in advance and do everything you can to prevent a permanent loss. As July is Lost Pet Prevention Month, we thought it would be the perfect time to remind pet lovers how to keep their pets safe and sound.
- Buy new ID tags and update microchips
The best way to have your pet reunited with you quickly is the good old ID tag. Make sure it’s up to date if you move or change phone numbers, and check yearly to make sure it’s still legible.
Your pet’s name and your phone number are the minimum, but tags can get elaborate. Some manufacturers even embed QR codes on the tag so if someone finds your lost pet they will have access to your information, the vet, and the pet’s medical conditions!
Microchips are, of course, a wonderful tool to help pets when a collar is lost or missing. It does require the pet be somewhere with a reader, like the vet or the shelter, so it’s really a backup if the ID tag isn’t present. Like the ID tag, make sure your information remains up to date in the database.
This summer, families are staying together and if they travel at all, it’s usually on road trips. These are great ways to stay connected, but also provide an opportunity for a spooked pet to be lost in a strange environment.
Make it a habit that no door gets opened without the pet on a leash. That can mean car doors, hotel room doors, anything when there is a chance a pet might dart. If your pet is not in a carrier, they are likely secured in a harness to begin with, so that makes the switchover easier. Don’t ever secure a pet to a seatbelt or the car with anything attached to their neck.
- Watch For Anxiety Triggers
If you live in an area where people shoot off fireworks all summer, you know how terrifying this can be for a pet. It’s hard to overstate what panic can do to a pet. We’re talking doors chewed through, six foot fences scaled, even teeth broken. If your pet experiences this level of anxiety, you would do well to consult with your veterinarian about prescription meds that can help, which work well in combination with training and soothing items like Thundershirts. Sometimes simply comforting your pet while feeding healthy dog treats or cat treats can help calm them.
Note: If you’ve used acepromazine in the past, veterinarians are no longer recommending this for anxiety. Why? Because we’ve discovered that it sedates the pet but doesn’t make the anxiety go away. Imagine being terrified AND unable to move or do anything about it. The good news is, we now have lots of better alternatives.
If your pet is lost, take a deep breath. Most pets are reunited with their owners. The knowledge that your pet has an ID tag on can make a huge difference! In the meantime:
- Call local shelters and veterinarians to let them know your pet is lost
- Have a current photo attached to the email, if you go that route
- If you have security, like a Ring doorbell, see if you can tell which way your pet ran
- Ask your neighbors to keep a look out.
- Get on Nextdoor! If you’re not using this local community page, it is one of the easiest ways to quickly reach your neighbors.
And most importantly, don’t give up! I once had a client whose Boxer roamed the hills for two months, evading attempts to catch him, before they were finally reunited. Maybe you’ve heard the story of Carole King, who quit her job in Washington to look for her dog who was lost on vacation in Montana. After 57 days, she found him!
If your pet is a Houdini, don’t beat yourself up. Just do all you can to stay one step ahead. I found out the hard way that our side gate had an issue when my neighbor showed up to let me know Dakota was hanging out in his courtyard. It happens! And now we have a backup bungee cord on the gate.
Have a safe and healthy summer!
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM