Pet Identification: Microchip vs. Tattoo

My pet is missing!

That is the worst nightmare of a caring pet owner. When our old border collie, Joshua, was spooked by fireworks and ran off, we thought we’d never see him again. He was twelve at the time and infirmities were setting in.

We searched the neighborhood, put out flyers, contacted the SPCA, posted to online groups and anything else we could think of. Joshua was wearing an ID tag from North Shore Animal League where we had adopted him from, but he had lost it somewhere in his blind panic. Fortunately for all of us, a kind woman found him and alerted the SPCA who then called us. Three days later we had our precious boy back and were blessed to have another two years with him. We were very lucky.

According to the American Humane Organization’s website:

  • 56% of dogs and 71% of cats that enter animal shelters are euthanized. More cats are euthanized than dogs because they are more likely to enter a shelter without any owner identification.
  • Only 15% of dogs and 2% of cats that enter animal shelters are reunited with their owners.

When Saphyre, a standard poodle, joined our family, we wanted to have her permanently identified so if she were ever lost we would have the best chance at recovery. The options we considered were Microchip and Tattooing.

First I researched microchips, the popular choice. Once implanted they are permanent and shelters will check for them. Vets, shelters and some rescue groups offer chipping for a range of fees. There is no battery involved. All that’s required is a scanner and Pet/Owner Identification is easily retrieved.

However, I also learned there is anecdotal evidence that chips can migrate from the injection site and they may cause cancer if a sarcoma forms around the chip. Owners are advised to regularly check the area of the implant for tenderness or swelling. Hard to do if the chip has migrated.

Chips are not visible to the naked eye. The pet must be taken somewhere that has a scanner and that scanner must be the universal type that can read all kinds of chips.

Logic tells me that inserting a foreign body into an organism could lead to problems. There have been reports of nerve damage and even death from improperly inserted chips. These cases are rare, but that is little comfort if it is your pet that dies.

Veterinary Oncologists quoted in an Associated Press article, Chip Implants Linked to Animal Tumors, concluded that more study was needed and that anyone considering a chip should be apprised of the risks.

Next I researched tattoos. I learned there are two main registries: Tattoo A Pet and National Dog Registry. They are easily identifiable from the lettering of the tattoo. Authorities are familiar with these registries and call the appropriate one and the registry supplies contact info for the animal’s family.

Tattoos can be applied by a vet or someone authorized by the registry (often they are groomers). The tattoo is applied either in the ear flap or along the rear inner thigh. There have been reports of dogs having their ears cut off to eliminate tattoos so the thigh has become the more common site.

The procedure takes just minutes and requires no anesthesia. Once applied it is easily visible to the naked eye. The drawbacks are that darker skin may be harder to read, the area should be kept shaved for best visibility and the tattoo may fade over time. Fading can easily be addressed by reapplying the tattoo so that issue is negligible.

For Saphyre we opted to go with a tattoo. I contacted the registry and got the names of some local tattooists, made the appointment and vóila, Saphyre was permanently identified as part of our family.

Our Saphyre

Our Saphyre

The procedure really did take just minutes. The tattoo instrument reminded me of an engraving pen. Each letter and number were simply drawn on leaving a large blotchy spot. Saphyre never whimpered or otherwise indicated discomfort beyond being restrained on the table. When the ID was complete, the area was swabbed, revealing an easy-to-read code that uniquely identifies our Saphyre. Filling out the paperwork actually took longer than the tattooing.

If you choose to have your pet permanently identified, I encourage you to take a little time and research your options. Choose the best one to meet your needs. Then you can rest easy knowing should your pet ever get lost, there is a greater likelihood you will have a happy reunion and beat the statistics.

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5 Responses to “Pet Identification: Microchip vs. Tattoo”

  1. Nancy Houser says:

    Thank you very much for your entry on the 6th National Dog Blog Carnival with “Pet Identification: Microchip vs. Tatoo”. We appreciate sharing the information with others so they can care properly for their pets by adequately identifying them.

    Nancy

  2. Modulator says:

    Friday Ark #258…

    Apologies to one and all for the very late boarding! This will likely be one of the smallest boardings since the early days of the Ark…5 years ago. It has been chaotic at Modulator Manor over the past week. We have packed up 20 years of belongings an…

  3. […] Pet Chatter blogs pet identification: microchip vs. tattoo posted at Pet Chatter, asking, “Permanent identification gives pet owners peace of mind. But what […]

  4. […] fascinating information about whether to tattoo or microchip our dogs in their blog post  “Pet Identification: Microchip vs. Tatoo“. Of course, you don’t have to do anything but if your buddy runs off or becomes  […]

  5. […] Pet Chatter presents pet identification: microchip vs. tattoo posted at Pet Chatter, saying, “Permanent identification gives pet owners peace of mind. But […]