ASK THE VET: Dogs that Bolt
Answered by MHS Veterinarian Dr. Michael Redmer, D.V.M.

Q. My dog Sparty always tries to bolt out the back gate. He is a Siberian husky mix and is neutered, but still loves to roam. Once, he even sprang over the privacy fence after a cat, right before my eyes. His collar was off temporarily, but fortunately, a neighbor was walking her dog, and Sparty came right over. Aside from keeping Sparty on a leash, how can I protect him from getting lost forever?

Ask the Vet 

A. Certain breeds of dogs are known to be runners, but the truth is that all pets are at risk of slipping out of their owner’s home or yard, and therefore should be provided with a collar and visible identification in the form of an I.D. tag and license. Often, this is their ticket back home before they even get too far.

While responsible pet owners might think a lost pet cannot happen to them, it’s estimated that one-third of all dogs and cats (yes, even those in good homes) will get lost at some point in their lifetimes. What’s even more compelling a case for ensuring pets have visible tags is the fact that, of the lost pets arriving at animal shelters in the U.S., less than 16% of the dogs and 2% of the cats are ever able to be reunited with their owners. If that’s not a reason to provide every pet with a collar and tag, I don’t know what is. Plus, it’s easier than ever to buy a tag – the MHS Berman Center for Animal Care and many area stores have a machine allowing you to engrave a tag on the spot.

Identification saves lives, protects pets, reduces animal homelessness and prevents heartbreak. That said, in all our pets’ lives, there are times that collars and tags are unlikely to be worn. Both in the MHS veterinary practice, as well as at our three adoption centers, we hear sad tales of lost pets whose collars were taken off briefly for a bath, to go in a crate, or even for a photo.

We should all be prepared in cases of local disasters, including fires, floods or severe storms. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for lost animals, especially those who are missing for some time, to lose their tags.

Microchipping is a permanent, safe and unalterable form of I.D. that should be used in conjunction with, not instead of, visible I.D.

The process of implanting a microchip with a sterile syringelike device takes seconds. The microchip is implanted in the shoulder area beneath the skin, with minimal discomfort - comparable to that of a vaccination. Alternatively, it can be implanted at the time of an anesthetic procedure, such as neutering or a dental cleaning.

Veterinarians and animal shelters across the country have universal scanners, which allow them to check each incoming lost pet for a microchip. If the owner’s contact information has been kept current when a microchip is found, it usually means a quick reunion. That also can help pet owners avoid costly sheltering fees or worse – the risk of never finding their beloved furry family member.

Although the benefits of microchipping are numerous, the modest cost of having your pet microchipped, around $50, is well worth the comfort of knowing your pet has a permanent form of identification to speak for him.

MHS includes microchipping at no charge with all its cat and kitten adoptions, and offers dog microchipping at a $10 discount at the time of adoption.

We’ve had some newsworthy reunions due to microchips recently, including a dog named Petie, who became lost – in Tennessee – and ended up at MHS three months later.

Thanks to a microchip, MHS soon had him heading back home. Don’t delay. Be prepared for the unexpected, and get your pet microchipped at an MHS veterinary center, or attend one of our pet microchipping clinics.

Michael Redmer, D.V.M., has been a staff veterinarian at the Michigan Humane Society Berman Center for Animal Care in Westland for more than 15 years. The three MHS veterinary centers comprise one of the largest veterinary practices in the state.

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