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Your Happy Pet: If your pet is lost

Original Publication Date: February 17, 2014
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

It is estimated that more than 10 million pets are lost each year. That means every two seconds, a family pet goes missing. Some are separated from their owners by forest fires, tornadoes, hurricanes or other natural disasters, but many wander off and are unable to find their way home. Only one in 10 lost pets is reunited with his or her owner.

To avoid loss, take a few simple steps to ensure your pet's security. A regular check of an outside enclosure takes only minutes but can identify potential problems and correct them. The gate should latch securely, and the fence should be too tall to be jumped.

Some relatively small dogs like Whippets are incredibly athletic and can jump or climb a 6-foot fence.

Also, look for areas where a dog may be trying to tunnel under the fence and block his or her progress.

You should be prepared in the event your pet is lost. The majority of pets that experience a happy reunion with their humans carry some form of identification to allow rescuers to contact the owners.

Your pet should have a collar with identification tags. Your dog's name, your name and a current phone number should be distinct.

A collar with tags is not a permanent form of pet identification since it can easily be lost, but it can prove invaluable if your pet is lost.

A microchip is a permanent form of identification. A veterinarian injects the tiny microchip about the size of a grain of rice under the skin between the shoulder blades of dogs and cats, on the left side of the neck of horses, and in the breast muscles of parrots, cockatiels and other birds.

Llamas, alpacas, goats, sheep, miniature pigs, rabbits, ferrets, snakes, lizards, turtles, toads, frogs and mice can also be microchipped. Each chip has a unique identification number that can be scanned and matched to the owner.

It is a good idea to keep current photos of your pet available. If he does go missing, distribute photos to local shelters and veterinarian offices or hang them in public places. Take a good look at your pet and have a description ready to place with the photos. Include his weight and any unusual lumps, bumps or markings.

Finally, keep the numbers of your local shelters at hand including those in nearby towns so you can see their new arrivals. In Victoria, check out listings on Adopt-A-Pet (361-575-7387), Dorothy O'Connor Pet Adoption Center (361-575-8573) and Victoria County Animal Control (361-578-3564). Post your pet's picture and information on social media and look for lost pets on the Facebook pages of nearby shelters.

Investing a little time to monitor security can keep your pet safely at home. Proper identification will go a long way to ensure the safe return if your pet is one of the 10 million lost each year.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at