What To Do When Your Pet Becomes Lost

Audra Stillabower, CVT
Veterinary Information Specialist

The Humane Society of the United States reports that 10 million dogs and cats go missing each year. One in three pets will become lost at some point in their life. Those are scary statistics when you think about your beloved family member. Whether your animal dashes out the front door or is stolen from your yard, it is a very stressful situation to be in as a pet owner. Here are some helpful tips to ensure the best chance that your pet is returned to you.


A microchip is a small implant that is placed with a large bore needle under the pet’s skin at the shoulder blades. You can purchase a microchip from your veterinarian. You should also check your local Humane Society and Animal Control, as they often hold low-cost or free microchip clinics to save you money. Once the microchip is implanted, it is very important that you register your chip with the company. Paperwork is provided for you to fill out and send in. If your pet should be found by someone, this will help the company track the microchip back to you. If the chip is not registered, the company can only track the chip back to who purchased it, whether it be the veterinarian or Animal Control. This may not be enough to find you in the event your pet has been located. If you’ve purchased a pet from someone or have been given a pet as a gift, ask the seller if the pet is microchipped. If so, they will need to transfer the information from the microchip company into your name, so that if the pet becomes lost, it will be traced back to you instead of the previous owner.

Any pet owner can find out where their pet is enrolled by checking the microchip ID number at petmicrochiplookup.org.  If the pet is not enrolled, it is important to do so with a trusted pet recovery service like AKC Reunite. For only $17.50 you can enroll your pet’s microchip for with no annual renewal fees for as long as you own your pet.


ID tags can be purchased through a variety of sources, from retail pet shops to online companies. You can choose what information to place on the tag, from your dog’s name, phone number, address or email address to alert the person how to contact you. This is a great resource, but will need upkeep. If the tag is worn so the wording isn’t readable or if the contact information has changed, it’s imperative to replace the tag.

Once your pet is vaccinated for rabies, your veterinarian will give you a rabies tag to place on your pet’s collar. This number can be used to trace your pet back to the veterinary clinic. The clinic will be able to look up the rabies tag number and contact you when your pet is lost. It is important to keep the rabies tag on your pet’s collar as well as the ID tag.

While tags can help you find your pet, if your pet’s collar should come off or your pet isn’t wearing a collar, it will be unable to help in your search. Make sure your pet’s collar is the right fit without being too tight and that your pet is wearing a collar even while in the house, so that if they dash out the front door, they are still wearing identification.

GPS Tracking

There are now GPS tracking systems for your pet that you can place on their collar. Some devices will send an alert when your animal walks out of a specific area. Other devices you can track on your phone. The following link lists several different comparable brands.


Put up Flyers

Place flyers around the neighborhood, in local veterinary clinics, pet stores, groomers, Animal Control and your local Humane Society. The flyer should have a color photo of your pet, identifying information, where and when the pet was lost and information to contact you.  You can also post a reward for people who return your pet. Getting your information out there in as many places as possible will help locate your pet. Active, healthy animals can travel a fair distance from home, or well meaning people will pick your pet up and drive them to another location, such as a vet office or animal control, so you will want to broaden your search as much as possible. There are websites that can help you make flyers. This link http://petbond.com/flyerentry.php can help you make a flyer and print it on your computer for a quick and easy solution.

Canvass the Neighborhood

The best option if your pet has been recently lost is to canvass the neighborhood and ask around to see if anyone has seen them. Keep a color photo with you that you can show to people. The photo should clearly show your animal’s head and body for easy identification. Take flyers with you if you have them made and leave them with neighbors and people that you talk to so they have your contact information.

Contact Animal Control/Humane Society/SPCA

You should check with Animal Control and other organizations in your town every day to see if your pet has been turned in. You can also file a lost report with them as well. Animal Control will only hold lost pets a certain amount of time, so checking back daily to look at the stray animals is an important step in finding your pet. You should check in with multiple shelters around your area, not just the one closest to you. Depending on where your pet was found, the person may have taken them to a different shelter near their home. Shelters usually do not have contact with each other, so going to each one individually will help.

Utilize PetRadar

When you have lost a pet, it is essential to spread the message to as many people as possible. While sticking up posters can help you do this, there are ways to reach a wider audience more quickly. PetRadar is a service that allows you to notify over 4,000 neighbors using social media ads. With just a bit of information from you, the team of pet lovers will create sponsored posts that are shared on Facebook and Instagram and will pop up on the feeds of people within a certain radius of your home. From here, your neighbors can report a sighting, send it to a friend, or save it for later. You’ll have a full dashboard to manage the search and keep an eye on sightings, as well as access to personal support and guidance and helpful resources. This technique has already reunited over 10,000 pets with their families!

Use the Internet

The internet can get information out quickly and cover more area. There are many sites out there to help you when your pet is lost.

  • Craigslist has a lost and found area on their website. You can post pictures and information on your pet and also check other ads to see if someone has found your pet.
  • You can check City and County government pages in your area. They can help direct you on what to do and where to go when you have a lost pet.
  • Post information on your Facebook page to get the word out. Ask friends to share the information so it can reach as many people as possible.
  • com has a lost and found section for pets that you can utilize in your search. https://www.petfinder.com/dogs/lost-and-found-dogs/
  • Check out Fidofinder.com for useful tips and to post your lost dog. https://www.fidofinder.com/find-your-lost-dog/

Most times, if a person has found your animal, they will do one of several things. They will contact Animal Control to pick the animal up, drop off the animal at a local veterinary hospital or keep the pet until an owner is found. If you cover all bases by distributing flyers, canvassing the neighborhood and by contacting Animal Control, Humane Society and veterinary clinics, you’ll have a good chance of finding your pet and getting them home as quickly as possible.

Hopefully most people will never have to experience a lost pet. In the case that something should happen, it is best to prepare beforehand. Having your animal tagged and microchipped will go a long way towards helping you reunite with your furry family member.