ID Me! part One

by: Jennifer Oldfield

Identification can make all the difference in the world if your pet ever goes missing and someone finds them.  Without any identification there is only the hope that the animal gets turned in to a Humane Society where you may be searching or they can be identified via one of the many lost and found pet sites/Facebook pages available and the owner found that way.  However, there are several options available to you for identification, so what form is best?  That will all depend on the plans you have for you and your pet.  There are two forms of permanent identification and several options on identification your pet wears.

Permanent Identification

A tattoo and microchip are the only current forms of permanent id.

A tattoo is done either by the breeder on pups when they are very young, either in the ear or on the inner flank, or it is done while under anesthetic, in the ear, most often when your pet is spayed/neutered.

The microchip can be done at anytime, at any age (although it is recommended to wait until at least 8 weeks of age) and is always placed under the skin between the shoulder blades.  It is smaller than a dime, approximately the size of a long grain piece of rice.

Pros & Cons:



(Image unclear to protect our client’s privacy)

The tattoo is highly visible when in the ear and generally anyone can read it.  When done on the flank, many animals need to be shaved to read the tattoo.  If it is a breeder tattoo it consists of a series of three characters (may be only letters or numbers & letters) then a number followed by another letter.  This information can be entered on the Canadian Kennel Club’s CANADAChip Recovery site to locate contact information for both the owner and the breeder.  The information must be entered with a space between the first 3 characters and the remaining characters.  If the tattoo is not a breeder tattoo then it may have been done by a Veterinary Clinic or by a Humane Society.  In Regina the clinics are all each identified with a letter, our clinic for example is the letter “A”.  The tattoo would be in a 3 part format:

  1. the “A” to signify being done at our clinic
  2. a number that signifies that particular patient, done sequentially from 1 at the start of each new calendar year
  3. another letter that signifies the year the tattoo was done (some letters, such as I are skipped as the may look too much like a 1)

For example a tattoo done this year would look like: A72E – this indicates our clinic, 72nd animal tattooed this year, and 2017 (the last time E would have occurred would have been more than 20 years ago, so unlikely 2 animals alive at the same time would have the same tattoo).

All tattoos done by us are then sent to the Regina Humane Society to enter in their database (if you are not sure if your pet’s tattoo is registered with the RHS, you can call them to find out).  Should an animal come in with a tattoo they can then locate the owner or contact the clinic of origin.  The Humane Society also tattoos the ear of animals that they have spayed/neutered.  They put “RHS” in the ear, this signifies they were done there.  The Humane Society also always microchips, so knowing they were spayed/neutered at the RHS means to search for a microchip.

Downside to the tattoo?  They can, like any tattoo, fade over time.  Generally they don’t, and at our clinic if it is our tattoo, and your pet is going in for another surgery we can, at no charge, darken up the tattoo for you.  If you move away, you would need to register the tattoo with the Humane Society of your new location or it is completely useless.  For the general public, although it tells them the animal has id, most people are not able to locate the information needed to find the owners unless they are willing to contact or take the pet to the Humane Society or to a Veterinary Clinic for assistance.


The microchip is a universal identification used across Canada, the US and overseas, although there are several different brands of microchips, AAHA has a Universal Microchip Lookup site that will either tell you the company the chip is registered with or if that company is not in their database, then it will tell you the top companies the chip most likely comes from.  Starting with the most likely at the top of the list, to the least likely at the bottom.

You can also search the CANADAChip Recovery site with the microchip number, however only those registered with the CKC will come up with any information.


The downside of the microchip is that unless you scan the animal, there is no way to visually know they are identified.   The location of the chip implant is also universal, however chips can travel in some patients and have been found down the shoulder or even near a paw.  When we scan an animal for a microchip we start in the universal location, but we ultimately scan the entire animal, just in case. That being the other downside, you need to have a scanner to search for a microchip and not all scanners will pick up all microchips, although generally they pick up most.  We have two scanners here, we start with the one most likely that will read microchips implanted within most of Canada and the US, then if it finds nothing we will search with the other scanner.  On a plus side, microchips do show up on x-rays.  Have your vet make note for you, if they ever do x-rays that show the microchip is not in its normal location.

crop check chipSome microchip companies provide an id piece for your pet’s collar that indicates to the general public that the animal has a microchip.  The person can call the phone number on the tag and provide the id number from the tag to identify the pet.  The microchip company will contact the owner.  With this id tag there is no need to scan for the microchip itself.

Microchips are not GPS trackable and do not provide any details other then the identification number when scanned.  So if you are looking for a way to track your pet’s location when they go missing, this is not the id that will do it.


In both cases for these forms of identification, they have major pluses of being permanent and provided you keep the database company*, the Humane Society and your veterinarian up-to-date with your information, this can be a great way to be reunited with your pet.  They are also fairly inexpensive in the grand scheme of things.

Watch for ID Me! Part Two on the several non-permanent forms of identification that are available.

*Some companies ask for your driver’s license – you aren’t required to provide it, however, because it is often one of the first pieces of your own id that you update when you move, it allows the microchip company to also keep your information current for your pet’s id.  Strongly consider including this information if it is asked.

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