In This Chapter
- Selecting your Chihuahua’s veterinarian
- Fostering a healthy pet-patient relationship
- Covering all the essentials during the initial checkup
- Preventing problems through vaccinations and altering
- Giving medicine to your Chi
- Implanting permanent identification
Next to you, no one is more important to your little Pepe’s health than his veterinarian. That’s why choosing his vet is one of the more important decisions you’ll ever make for him. This chapter helps you find a veterinarian you can trust with your Chihuahua’s life.
But it takes two to save a sick dog — one to diagnose the illness and prescribe the treatment, and the other to follow up at home. Because the other is you, I also help you become the kind of client every caring veterinarian wants — one who prevents problems whenever possible, sees the signs of sickness before they become severe, keeps calm (uh oh), remembers instructions, and carries them out exactly as prescribed. Finally, I cover other important health topics, from your dog’s first exam and his all-important vaccinations to altering your Chi and fitting him with an ID.
Choosing Your Chihuahua’s Veterinarian
By now you know that all dogs aren’t the same. Toys like Chihuahuas have special needs, and sometimes specific problems. Therefore, you need a veterinarian who likes and understands Toy dogs. Depending on where you live, you may have several excellent choices right in town, or you may have to drive 50 miles to visit the vet most of the Toy owners in your community trust. Near or far, picking your dog’s vet is a major decision. Someday, his life may depend on the doctor’s diagnostic ability.
Here are some of the better ways to find a good veterinarian:
– Ask your Chi’s breeder. If the breeder lives within a reasonable distance, try his or her vet first. Even if the breeder lives far away, he or she may have sold pups to other people in your area and can tell you how to contact them for referrals.
– When you see people walking Toy dogs in your neighborhood, ask them who they use and if they’re satisfied with the quality of care.
– Call the nearest major veterinary hospital or the local or state veterinary association (you can find them in the phone book) for recommendations.
– Look for a veterinary hospital with AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) accreditation. These hospitals voluntarily meet a high standard set by the AAHA and undergo regular inspections to make sure they maintain standards. Going to www.aahanet.org can help you find a local hospital that goes this extra step. When you find a candidate, ask for a tour of the hospital. If the staff is friendly and happy to show you around, this is a good sign. If not, stay away.
Let your mouth, not your fingers, do the walking when looking for a good veterinarian. Asking Toy dog breeders and members of a local kennel club beats looking in the Yellow Pages.
After you choose a vet with an awesome reputation and make the first appointment for your Chihuahua, you must decide whether you’re satisfied with your choice. The right veterinarian will do or have the following. (If the vet you visit doesn’t do or have these things, you may opt to discuss your dissatisfaction with the vet or simply change veterinarians. Many vet offices accommodate several vets, so you may be able to change to one you feel more comfortable with in the same office.)
– Handle your Chihuahua with professional proficiency. Whether your dog is everybody’s pal or shy with strangers, your vet should handle him gently but firmly. A complete physical examination needs to be performed carefully but with practiced ease (see Figure 13-1). Steer clear of any vet who seems rushed or rough or says or does anything that leads you to believe he or she may not like Chihuahuas.
– Weigh him and take his temperature and a complete history. This should include where you got him, how long you’ve had him, his age, diet, vaccinations, wormings, activity level, appetite, and previous illnesses.
– Explain the examination and discuss the results with you. A caring vet may give you tips on how to improve your Chi’Technical Stuff condition or keep him healthy over the long term.
– Answer your questions thoroughly in language you understand. Any vet who purposely talks over your head or has an arrogant attitude doesn’t need you (or me) for a client. Good vets answer their clients’ questions in everyday language without talking down to them.
– Make provisions for emergency care during weekends, holidays, and the middle of the night. Some veterinarians handle emergencies themselves; others refer their clients to services that specialize in emergencies. If your vet opts for the service, make sure a vet knowledgeable in Toy dogs is always available.
– Have a pleasant receptionist and staff and a clean waiting room. The exception is the small-town vet who cheerfully operates a tidy, one-person office.
– Have an organized and well-equipped facility.
– Discuss fees. Although most clinics expect you to pay for regular office visits right away, you may want to ask about their policies for unexpected, expensive emergencies.
– Be caring. If you sense coldness or indifference in the vet or his/her staff, your pup is in the wrong place.
Figure 13-1: Your Chihuahua needs a vet who likes and understands small dogs.
Being the Best Kind of Client
If your Chi becomes ill or injured, it takes more than an excellent vet to cure him. It also takes you — a conscientious and composed client. A dog does best if his veterinarian and his owner work together to pull him through a crisis. The following list explains how you can be the type of client a veterinarian is glad to have on his or her team:
– Calling and making appointments for routine visits, such as annual exams and booster shots.
– Arriving to appointments on time.
– Not asking your vet to diagnose your dog over the telephone.
Why no phone diagnosis? Because it can’t be done. A variety of canine illnesses display similar signs. It takes a hands-on examination, and possibly some tests, to find out what’s causing the problem and to decide on the best method of treatment.
– Having an understanding attitude when the vet runs late because he or she had to drop everything to take care of an emergency.
– Knowing your dog’s normal behavior and calling the clinic immediately if something doesn’t seem right.
Write down your dog’s normal vital signs and keep them handy. Yes, your vet should keep a record, but your Chi may get sick while you’re traveling, and knowing what’s normal for him helps an emergency vet make a better diagnosis.
– Bringing along a written list of recent behavior changes, if any exist (for example: excessive thirst, loss of appetite, change in activity level, unexplained fear or aggression, and so on).
– Bringing the health and vaccination records the breeder gave you (for your first visit; see the following section).
– Keeping your dog on leash on your lap or in his crate in the waiting room. Don’t let him play on the floor or sniff strange dogs. It’s easy for pups to pick up germs.
– Being honest. When your vet asks if your Chihuahua has been on any medication, don’t be ashamed to admit that you tried an over-the-counter medication from the pet shop. Admitting a mistake may make you feel like a fool, but your vet has to know exactly what your dog has ingested to make a correct diagnosis. Not only that, but mixing medications can be fatal. Also, if your Chi seemed slightly sick for several days and you kept hoping that he’d get better on his own, admit that, too. Don’t try to make yourself look better at your dog’s expense.
– Making a list of your dog-care questions and bringing it along. Your vet should be glad to answer appropriate questions about feeding, grooming, toenail trimming, and anything else related to your Chihuahua’s health; however, he or she doesn’t have time to listen to you ramble on about how Grandma Mildred thinks your Pepe should be a television star.
– Taking notes when the vet gives you instructions.
– Following all instructions exactly. You must give medications at the right time and in the correct dosage or they won’t work. If you don’t understand how to administer a medication, ask. Your vet can explain or demonstrate.
Never increase the dosage of a medication (not even a little) in the hopes of making your Chihuahua feel better faster. Medication doesn’t work that way. In fact, what cures at the proper dosage can kill when overdosed.
– Staying as composed as possible, even during an emergency. The more serious the injury or illness, the more your vet needs you as a clear-thinking partner in your Chihuahua’Technical Stuff treatment.
No matter how frightening the emergency and how fast you want to get your dog to the vet, you need to secure his crate for the trip so it doesn’t roll or slide while you drive. The last thing a sick or hurt Chihuahua needs is a terrifying tumble.
– Not being argumentative or belligerent. Most vets care about their clients and understand how deeply people love their dogs. But vets aren’t magicians; they can’t guarantee that a badly injured or gravely ill dog will recover, no matter how skillfully they treat it. If you lose confidence in your vet, the best thing to do is change clinics.
– Paying your bills according to clinic policy.
The Ins and Outs of the First Exam
The best time for a Chihuahua and his veterinarian to meet is within 48 hours after you acquire him. In fact, breeder contracts usually tell owners how soon the dogs’ initial exams must take place; ignoring these contracts voids the guarantees. Although most puppies purchased from reliable breeders are healthy (see Chapter Choosing Your Ideal Chihuahua), the timely first examination is especially important for three reasons:
– Your veterinarian either confirms that your dog is healthy or gives you the bad news if he isn’t (I’m talking major problems here, not a minor infestation of worms or a loose baby tooth that needs attention). If something is seriously wrong, finding out while you can still return the Chihuahua is better than falling hopelessly in love with a puppy so sick that it can never live a normal life.
– So the clinic can establish a permanent record of what’s normal for your dog (assuming he’s fine). If he ever shows signs of sickness, tests can quickly disclose deviations. Besides, why not get to know your vet when your Chi is healthy instead of entrusting your dog to a total stranger during an emergency?
– Your new dog probably needs vaccinations, a checkup for internal and external parasites, and medicine to prevent heartworm. I tell you more about preventative medicine later in this chapter and in Chapter Debugging de Dog.
Unfortunately, people don’t always get to decide when to visit the veterinarian. In case of an emergency, take your dog to the vet ASAP. Speedy treatment often is the difference between death and complete recovery. Call the clinic first and explain what happened so the staff can prepare.
Here’s to hoping your first visit will be routine and painless. The following sections dig deeper into the visit details.
Here’s a checklist of what to do before your pup’s first visit to the veterinarian so you can get organized:
– Feed your Chihuahua a couple dog biscuits an hour or more before driving him to the veterinarian. That may keep him from getting carsick.
– Put a roll of paper towels and a container of wet wipes in your vehicle in case a quick cleanup is necessary.
– Prepare a copy of your dog’s health record to take along.
– Collect a recent stool sample. You can use a resealable plastic bag. (Some vets want you to bring one along for the first exam. Be sure to ask about that when making his appointment.)
– Transport your dog in a crate. Secure the crate to make sure it doesn’t take a tumble if you have to swerve or make a quick stop.
– Bring cash or your checkbook. Vets get paid at the time of treatment, and some of them don’t take credit cards.
Making the most of your first visit
Surely you have questions about dog care before your first visit. The initial visit is the time to ask. Write your questions down at home as you think of them so you don’t forget anything. To get you started, here are a few questions new Chihuahua owners often ask:
- When is it safe to start taking my dog to public places?
- What do normal bowel movements look like?
- How often should my dog have a bowel movement?
- What’s a good balanced diet for my Chihuahua?
- How often can he have treats, and what makes a good treat?
- Does my dog need a vitamin and mineral supplement?
If you want to buy health insurance for your Chihuahua, the insurance is readily available. Discuss this option with your veterinarian or search for Pet Health Insurance on the Net. You’ll find many options. Before buying a policy, be sure you know what it does and doesn’t cover, what percentage it pays, and how to make claims. For example, some pet policies are for emergency care only; others offer wellness plans that cover annual examinations.
No coddling allowed
Even if the thought of your dog getting his first shot makes you cringe, don’t let him know that. Be friendly with the veterinarian, not nervous, or your dog will feel your tension and get scared. The ideal attitude for the first visit (and those thereafter) is patient but matter-of-fact. Hold your Chi in place gently but firmly for the examination and talk to him in a happy tone, without letting sympathy creep into your voice. Consoling and coddling your Chihuahua will only make him sure that something terrible is going to happen. Your dog takes his cues from you, so if he senses that you’re relaxed and like the vet, he’ll relax and like the vet, too.
Home again and more confused than ever
You and your dog visited your vet for the first time, and now you’re home again, filled with new information — some of it different from what you’ve read in this book. What should you do? Who should you believe?
Trust your veterinarian. This book is a general reference, meaning that it contains good, solid information about Chihuahuas in general. But your dog is an individual that just had a thorough examination, and now you have personalized instructions. Follow them. They’re meant especially for your pup.
Understanding Those Vital Vaccinations
Sorry in advance for all the gloom and doom, but for your Chihuahua’s sake, you must know the worst conditions your pup can contract. The good news is that modern dog owners are lucky. They don’t have to worry about losing their pets to the host of deadly diseases that wiped out dogs by the thousands just a few canine generations ago. Today, the main focus of dog care is preventative medicine. The vaccinations your vet schedules are the best safeguards to keep your Chi from contracting a variety of potentially fatal diseases. This section breaks down all the vaccination knowledge you need.
Although vaccines often are referred to as permanent shots, don’t believe it. No canine vaccine gives permanent immunity, which is why dogs should get booster shots throughout their adult lives.
Different vaccines for different lifestyles
If it has been awhile since you had a new puppy, you may think all vaccinations programs are similar. They used to be, but they aren’t anymore. Today, dog vaccines are divided into core and non-core. Core vaccines are the ones recommended for all dogs in a particular area. Non-core vaccines give dogs additional protection in special circumstances. For example, if you live in the northeast part of the United States and your dog is pretty much a stay-at-home pet, your vet will recommend one series of shots. But if you and your dog will do a lot of traveling, your Chi will need the extra protection of non-core vaccines (see the section “Just say ‘No!’ to other deadly diseases” for more on extra protection; the other sections deal with the most frequent core group).
If you plan to travel a great deal with your dog, tell your vet because exposure to strange dogs and new places may demand extra precautions. Don’t take your Chi on any outings until you’re sure his puppy series of inoculations is complete. Following his puppy series, he needs a booster shot every year of his adult life.
Taking extra precautions for Toy puppies
Don’t be surprised if your Chihuahua’s vaccination schedule is different from the plan your friend follows for her Doberman Pinscher puppy. Chihuahuas and other Toy dogs are more likely to have allergic reactions to some of the common combination vaccines. In fact, sometimes they come through their first vaccinations just fine but then get sick from the second or third round. That’s why many vets separate the shots and give tiny dogs their parvo shots alone rather than in combination with other vaccines. The leptospirosis vaccination also is an issue with Toy dogs, so discuss this vaccine with your veterinarian. Depending on your lifestyle, it may not be included.
Your puppy’s vaccinations must never be closer than two weeks apart. Three to four weeks apart is ideal. Your vet will recommend the proper schedule for your pup.
If your dog is allergic to a vaccine, a reaction (swelling around the muzzle, difficulty breathing, or even collapse) usually occurs between 20 and 30 minutes after the shot. If you live far from your clinic, don’t drive home immediately after your dog is vaccinated. Instead, stick around for about an hour (read a book or listen to music in your vehicle with your dog on your lap). That way, immediate help is just seconds away.
An allergic reaction to an injection is called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock. The sooner treatment to counteract the reaction begins, the better the chances of survival. Discuss allergic reactions with your vet during the first visit.
What does DHLPP mean?
Although your Chihuahua may not get the whole combination in one shot, one of the most common vaccines given to dogs is a combination shot known as the DHLPP. The following sections break down what the letters mean.
D is for distemper
Distemper, a highly contagious airborne disease, is the number-one killer of unvaccinated dogs. Its victims usually are puppies, although older dogs may come down with it, too. Because distemper manifests itself in various forms, it can be difficult even for experienced vets to diagnose. Symptoms include some but not all of the following: diarrhea, vomiting, reduced appetite, cough, nasal discharge, inflamed eyes, fever, convulsions, exhaustion, and lack of interest in toys, games, or attention. Although dogs with distemper occasionally recover, they may suffer permanent damage to the brain or nervous system. Dogs that receive treatment immediately have the best chance of survival.
H is or hepatitis
Infectious hepatitis in dogs affects the liver just as it does in humans, but humans don’t catch the canine form. In dogs, it spreads through contact with an infected dog’s stool, saliva, or urine. Intense thirst is one specific symptom, but all the other symptoms are similar to those of distemper. Hepatitis progresses rapidly and often is fatal, so prompt veterinary treatment is critical.
L is for leptospirosis
Leptospirosis (or lepto) is caused by a spirochete — a microorganism that’s often carried by rats. A dog that has contact with a rat can become infected, as can one that eats something contaminated by rats. The result is a bacterial infection that’s capable of causing permanent kidney damage.
P is for parvovirus
Parvovirus (or parvo) attacks the stomach lining, lining of the small intestine, bone marrow, and lymph nodes, and in young puppies, even the heart. It’s highly contagious and spreads through contaminated stools. Your dog may encounter the stools via their paws or your shoes. Beginning with depression or exhaustion and a loss of appetite, symptoms soon progress to vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), and fever. Puppies with infected hearts (myocardial parvovirus) often die suddenly or within a day or two of contracting the disease. Those few that recover may suffer chronic heart problems. How severely adult dogs are affected depends on the individual. Some dogs become extremely ill, and others just lose their appetites and lower their activity levels for a day or two.
P also is for parainfluenza
Parainfluenza, also known as infectious canine tracheobronchitis and most commonly called kennel cough, spreads rapidly from dog to dog. It’s caused by several different viruses, as well as a bacterium. Symptoms are a frequent, dry, hacking cough and sometimes a nasal discharge. Other than that, the dog appears to feel fine; many dogs infected with parainfluenza don’t even miss a meal. Dogs vaccinated against parainfluenza sometimes get the condition anyway, but they usually have milder symptoms than unvaccinated dogs.
Although the disease usually runs its course, it’s more dangerous to puppies than it is to mature dogs. Puppies should be kept in a warm, humid room while recovering. No matter how old your Chi is, though, your vet probably will prescribe antibiotics to prevent complications and medication to control the cough.
Whether he’s 9 weeks or 9 years old, your dog needs to see your vet right away if he starts coughing. It could be a sign of something serious.
Rabies always is fatal to dogs. And a dog with rabies is a danger to humans and other animals, which is why law mandates rabies vaccinations. Rabies is a virus that can infect dogs that come in contact with cats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, or other warm-blooded animals that already have the virus. It affects the nervous system and is generally passed from animal to animal or animal to human through infected saliva — usually from a bite. Rabies also can infect a victim through cuts or scratches that come in contact with saliva from a rabid animal.
One of the first signs of rabies is a difference in disposition. A gentle dog may start to act aggressive, or an independent dog may suddenly crave affection. Soon, the dog’s pupils may become dilated and light may seem to cause him pain. Eventually, the dog won’t want any attention and may develop stomach trouble and a fever.
As the disease progresses its symptoms can include bared teeth, random biting, lack of coordination, twitching facial muscles, and loss of control of the facial muscles, resulting in an open mouth with the tongue hanging out. The dog’s voice may change, and it may drool, paw at its mouth, and cough. Finally, it will slip into a coma and die. All warm-blooded animals are susceptible to the disease, so anyone bitten by a dog (or any other animal) needs to see a doctor right away.
Rabies vaccine prevents this dreaded disease. Your vet will give the rabies shot to your Chi separately, not in combination with other vaccines. Some rabies vaccinations are good (and legal) for longer than a year, so be sure to ask your vet when your dog’s shot should be renewed.
Just say “No!” to other deadly diseases
Besides the diseases you read about in the previous sections, your vet may also recommend vaccinations against Lyme disease, Bordetella, Giardia, Corona, and Adenovirus, depending on where you live and your lifestyle:
– Lyme disease (spread by the deer tick) attacks nerve tissue, joints, the heart, and, occasionally, the kidneys. Its symptoms include lameness due to joint pain, loss of appetite, and fever. Lyme disease is more of a danger in some parts of the country than in others. Not only that, but veterinarians aren’t in agreement about how well the vaccine works. Discuss Lyme disease with your vet and trust him or her to make an educated decision about whether your Chihuahua should be vaccinated.
– Bordetella is a contagious and potentially serious respiratory disease that breaks out most often during the summer months when many dogs spend a week or so at the boarding kennel.
– Giardia is an intestinal parasite that dogs can pick up by drinking water contaminated by feces.
– Corona is a virus that’s transmitted via the stool of an infected dog. It breaks out most often when many dogs are kenneled in the same facility. Dogs that travel a lot also pick it up much more often than those that remain near home. Although this virus can cause dangerous diarrhea in puppies (dangerous because of the possibility of dehydration), adult dogs usually shake it off in a matter of days. Let your vet decide if your Chi needs protection from coronavirus.
– Two types of adenovirus exist. One causes a respiratory infection and the other causes hepatitis, which can lead to liver and kidney damage. Adenovirus vaccine may be the hepatitis part of the core vaccines your veterinarian recommends.
These days, your Chi can be vaccinated against all these diseases. But just because a vaccine exists doesn’t mean your dog needs it, so let your veterinarian decide after consulting with you. (In addition to your vet’s vaccination schedule, your Chihuahua needs to be on a regular program that prevents heartworm. I tell you more about this in Chapter Debugging de Dog
Administering Medicine the Correct Way
If you can get away with it, giving pills in food is the easiest medicating method. My American Staffordshire Terriers gobble up a cheese-wrapped pill instantly. It usually takes two people to give a Chihuahua a pill, however. My Chi, for instance, eats the cheese and leaves the pill on the floor! With your helper holding your Chi firmly, open his mouth and place the pill as far back on the center of his tongue as you can. Then hold his mouth shut while tilting his head upward (careful, don’t cover his nostrils). Stroking his throat gently during this step may induce him to swallow. After he swallows, look inside his mouth to make sure the pill went down.
Opening a puppy’s mouth and giving him a treat on a daily basis, from the first day you bring him home, will make it easier to give him pills later in life.
Liquid medication probably will be easier on both of you, so opt for it if your vet gives you a choice. Use an eyedropper to give your Chi liquid medication. Lift his lips slightly and place the eyedropper in the back corner of his mouth, where the upper and lower lips form a pocket. Hold his head up and his lips shut and squeeze the eyedropper. Keep holding his muzzle, tilting it slightly upward until you’re sure that he swallowed the medicine. Gently stroking his throat may help.
If you get your Chi used to taking delicious liquid from an eyedropper, administering liquid medication becomes a cinch. Occasionally, melt a teaspoon of vanilla ice cream, put it in an eyedropper, and give it to your Chi just as if it were medicine.
Spaying or Neutering for a Happier, Healthier Dog
Prime time for spaying or neutering is when your Chihuahua is between 4 and 6 months old. Avoid waiting until 8 to 10 months of age to spay or neuter. Many dogs experience a fear development period at this time, and a surgical hospitalization can plant an ingrained fear of going back to the hospital. It can also lead to aggression.
Females spayed before their first season (usually around 6 months of age) are at much less risk of developing breast cancer than unspayed females. And because spaying removes the female’s reproductive organs, spayed females never suffer cancers or infections of the ovaries or uterus. In addition, they don’t have unwanted pregnancies and won’t drip blood all over your carpet and furniture for several days twice a year!
Spayed females also are nicer to live with. Her sexy scent won’t entice males to serenade in chorus on your front lawn, and she won’t suddenly develop a desire to roam. Spaying helps to keep a female’s disposition consistent and lets her participate in competitive events such as obedience and agility without taking three weeks off every six months (because females in season are banned from performance events). In short, spaying your Chi when she’Technical Stuff young gives her a healthier life, presents you with fewer hassles, lessens the risk of a big dog mounting her, and doesn’t add to the pet overpopulation problem.
Please don’t breed your female Chihuahua so you can get back your initial investment or so your children can witness the miracle of birth. A beloved female may need an emergency Caesarean section or even die giving birth, leaving you with traumatized children and orphan puppies. And as far as your investment goes, any emergency will result in big vet bills, and raising even healthy puppies is an expensive endeavor.
Plus, even if all goes well with the whelping, it’s common for one or more seemingly healthy puppies to die one day to four weeks after birth. This also can be very traumatic to children.
Neutering your male dog before he’s a year old can save him the pain of prostate problems when he ages, including cancer, and it makes him easier to live with.
Male hormones make dogs desire every female in season whose scent wafts by on the wind, and some of the males perform Houdiniesque feats to escape and find the female. Male hormones also make dogs more aggressive toward other dogs and may contribute to housetraining problems, such as scent marking (when the male urinates on objects inside the home to stake out his territory).
Frustration (also caused by male hormones) is what may make a dog embarrass you by making love to Aunt Amelia’s leg during Thanksgiving dinner. Although neutering won’t immediately cure a frustrated, aggressive escape artist with a housetraining problem, it will eliminate the production of male hormones, which almost always will start your dog on the road to improvement.
Myths and old wives tales about altering
Several myths and old wives tales about spaying and neutering began circulating long ago, and every one of them is wrong. Here’s the real story:
– Spaying or neutering does not make a dog fat and lazy. Overfeeding and lack of exercise do that. The truth is, altered pets are often the top performers in competitive events. Neutered males can keep their minds on their work, and spayed females can compete throughout the year without losing several weeks because of being in season. In fact, almost all service dogs (hearing dogs, guide dogs for the blind, and dogs that help the physically handicapped) are spayed or neutered.
– Spaying or neutering does not prevent a dog from being an alert watchdog. Neutered males concentrate on their homes better than males that have the scent of sex on their minds. And spayed females alert to strange sights and sounds every bit as quickly as unspayed females.
– Male dogs don’t get sad or resentful about being “castrated.” In reality, dogs don’t have human feelings about romantic love and sex. Males never miss the hormones that made them feel frustrated and constantly steered them toward trouble, and females don’t feel unfulfilled because they didn’t have litters. In fact, altered dogs usually become closer to their human families, which is where dogs really want to be.
Slapping an ID on (Or in) Your Dog
The traditional form of doggie identification is a tag inscribed with the owner’s name and telephone number attached to the dog’s collar. Perhaps this would be enough for the nice family down the block to see whom your Chi belongs to if he ever wanders out the door unseen. But collars can come off and tags can get lost, so this section presents two newer and better ID methods to discuss with your veterinarian. They ensure that your Chi carries his identification all the time.
Sporting a tattoo
No, you shouldn’t decorate your Chi’s handsome bod with hearts or eagles. Tattooing is a relatively painless procedure that permanently places an identification number on the inside of your dog’s ear or high on the inner thigh of his back leg — out of sight unless someone looks for it. Animal shelter personnel and other humane workers know where to look to find a dog’s tattoo.
The tattoo links your dog to a registry where his ID info is on file. Another plus is that laboratories can’t use tattooed dogs. Just don’t forget to sign on with the appropriate national registry (database) as soon as your Chi is tattooed. Excellent registries include the following:
– AKC CAR (Companion Animal Recovery): Contact AKC CAR at www.akc.org/lostfoundor by calling 800-252-7894.
– Tattoo-a-Pet: You can access Tattoo-a-Pet at www.tattoo-apet.comor call 800-TATTOOS.
– The National Dog Registry: You can get info at www.nationaldogregistry.comor call 800-NDR-DOGS.
If you want to have your dog tattooed and your veterinarian doesn’t offer the service, contact your local kennel club. Some dog clubs conduct tattooing clinics, where a veterinarian or a trained club member tattoos pets for a reasonable fee. Even if your local dog club doesn’t offer the service, its members can tell you where they’ve had it done.
Fitted with a microchip
The newest method of permanently identifying dogs is the microchip. This tiny device (about the size of an uncooked kernel of rice) is encoded with your pet’s identification information and implanted under his skin (usually at the juncture of the neck and the withers) by your veterinarian. The procedure is similar to receiving a vaccination.
If your Chi becomes lost and ends up in a shelter, a device called a scanner reads the microchip and identifies him. Although more and more humane facilities are acquiring scanners, the problem remains that not all of them own a scanner yet. Also, if the person who finds him has never heard of microchipping, he or she won’t take him to be scanned.
To be on the safe side, have your dog microchipped and use another form of identification as a backup.
by Jacqueline O’Neil