The Importance of Identification

small dog in blue harness

While we do our very best to keep a close eye on Fido, he tends to let curiosity get the best of him when engaging in an unsupervised stroll around the neighborhood.  When this happens, you’ll be thankful that you just invested in that slightly-overpriced-but-irresistibly-cute dog collar, personalized identification tags, and microchip.

“ID tags can help with identification in case they get lost or run away,” said Dr. Stacy Eckman, a lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “It lets people know that the dog is owned and is very helpful when trying to reunite the animal with the owner.”

In addition to decorating your dogs with ID tags, microchips have become an increasingly popular way to keep track of your pets in the case they go missing.

“Unlike a tag or a collar, it cannot come off and is placed under the skin with a small needle,” said Eckman. “It is not painful to the pet and they will not notice it, and neither will the owner in most instances.”

Many people have the misconception that microchips are a GPS tracker and can locate a lost pet, but really, it just holds the pet and owner information.  “Once a pet is scanned, the information can be looked up to try and reunite the owner and pet,” said Eckman. “An important thing to keep in mind about microchips is that the information has to be updated if you move—it is not automatic.”

They are very beneficial because most shelters and facilities scan for microchips when an animal comes in, which makes it much easier to reunite an owner with their pet. However, it is important to keep in mind that microchips do not replace the need for dog ID tags, but merely supplement them.

“Some shelters do not have microchip scanners or the one they have may not read your pet’s particular microchip (though there are a handful of manufacturers on the market and the scanners are getting better at picking up all the different kinds),” said Eckman. “If a Good Samaritan finds your pet, having visible tags will let them know it is owned.” This way, they can quickly contact the owner without having to hassle with posting “found pet” signs around the neighborhood, which some may find to be too much trouble.

Even if Fido and Fluffy spend their time indoors, having both ID tags and microchips are recommended. “There are instances when they can run out the door, slip through their leash or collar and get away,” said Eckman. “Identification will help them find their way home.” Both of these painless precautions can save you and your pet a lot of heartache in the long run.

As important as our pets are to us, having them go missing is a feeling we hope never to experience. By investing in both a microchip and detailed identification tags, your dog has a much greater chance of returning back from his sporadic squirrel-chase safe and sound.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

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