A missing pet is the nightmare of every pet owner. When a pet is missing, it will most likely be reunited with its owner if it is identified with a tattoo or a microchip. What do you know about both of these methods?


Pets don’t need to be under general anaesthetic to get tattooed; the process is painless. Veterinarians or tattooists first shave and clean the area (usually the right ear or the inside of the thigh). Next, they apply a layer of Vaseline and start to tattoo a series of numbers and letters. Pet tattoos are not as deep as those a human would normally have done, which is why there is no bleeding and the procedure is painless.

The biggest advantage of pet tattoos is that they are immediately noticeable. If someone finds your pet and brings them to a shelter or veterinarian, a professional will be able to identify them and contact you immediately. However, tattoos fade with time and may become unreadable, especially if your pet has had several ear infections. On the other hand, tattooing a pet is relatively cheap (around £25 in the UK).

The main drawback of tattoos is that, for dogs, they are no longer sufficient in the UK. You need to have your dog microchipped by law. Additionally, a person who finds your pet will need to have the presence of mind to check for a tattoo, which may not be the case. It is also possible for a crafty thief to alter the tattoo, rendering it useless.


Microchips are as big as a grain of rice, which veterinarians then set under the pet's skin with a needle. Once the procedure is complete, professionals such as vets, shelter workers, and the police are able to read ID information from the microchip.

Unlike a tattoo, microchip data is indelible and tamper-proof. An additional plus is that microchips are easy to read, even if your pet is agitated, and even in different countries.

The biggest issue with microchips is that they are not immediately noticeable. Many people won’t have the reflex to bring a lost pet to a veterinarian to see if they are microchipped. To deal with this, you can add a tag to your pet’s collar saying that they have a microchip.

The British government announced that the microchipping of dogs was to be mandatory from April 2016.

What to do if your pet goes missing

If your pet goes missing, you are much more likely to find them again if they have a form of identification; be it tattooing, microchipping or a collar. However, there are a few things you will need to do immediately to improve your chances of finding them again.

If your pet is microchipped, you should call the company they are registered with to report them missing. This is a good time to make sure all your contact information is up to date, so that you can be easily contacted if they are found.

You can also call local vets to inform them your pet is missing in case someone brings them in. Animal shelters may not be able to tell you over the phone if there is a pet in their care that matches the description you give, but you can visit them to see.

Another tip is to create flyers and pin them around the local area. Don't forget to post on social media too, asking people to share the information.

Finally, if your pet is normally allowed outside, check places the are familiar with before doing a full neighbourhood sweep. You can get people that your pet knows with to help you, and think about taking some tasty treats too!

Remember, if your pet is properly identified, they are less likely to be mistaken for a stray. Don't panic, keep searching, be strategic, and try to stay positive.

Which type of ID does your pet have?

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