It’s a pet owner’s worst fear—your beloved pet has run off and has become lost. Each year about 10 million pets go missing in the US, and only 10% are reunited with their owners. To help raise awareness of this problem and reduce the number of missing pets, PetHub established July as Lost Pet Prevention Month—a program designed to give pet owners the facts they need to help prevent their pets from becoming another statistic.
Here we’ll focus specifically on dogs—reviewing typical “lost dog” scenarios, and offering practical tips to help you prevent pet loss.
How do dogs get lost?
There are some common ways that dogs and owners can become separated:
The frightened animal. Some dogs are easily spooked by loud noises such as thunderstorms and fireworks. A panicked animal can often slip a collar or leap a fence and take off running. By the time it stops to rest, it is completely disoriented. July 4th fireworks alone are responsible for a spike in shelter admissions of runaway pets.
The explorer. Some dogs are just natural roamers. In rural areas, these animals can easily wander outside their familiar range and become lost. Some become trapped in man-made structures like storm drains or drainage canals, while others simply venture too far into unfamiliar woods and are unable to find their way home.
The sick animal. A dog that is ill or dehydrated can make critical errors when trying to find its way home. It may wander aimlessly or experience a fall or other injury that impairs its ability to seek water or food.
The charmer. Some dogs are natural escape artists and are very adept at charming passersby. A Good Samaritan will often bring such an animal to a local shelter or vet in hopes the owner will notice the animal missing and make the proper inquiries to recover it.
The abducted pet. Unfortunately, pet theft is a serious problem, with over 2 million pets abducted in the U.S. annually. Some breeds are adducted for use in illegal dog-fighting rings, others simply because the thief does not want to go through the process of adopting a pet legally.
The accident or attack victim. For some runaway dogs, the scenario is grim. Many are struck by cars or attached by other animals, such as coyotes or snakes. An injured animal can be hard to spot and often these animals do not receive the aid they desperately need.
The displaced. Emergency situations—like a house fire or medical crisis—could leave a beloved pet homeless. And in areas where evacuations due to extreme weather or natural events are common—like wildfires or hurricanes—pets can become lost in the confusion.
What can you do to prevent dog loss?
Fortunately, there are simple precautions you can take to prevent your dog from becoming lost:
Never leave your dog unsupervised. While a frightened dog can slip its collar and run off, even in a crowd, the majority of lost dogs are unattended at the time they go missing. Keeping your pet in sight when outdoors can greatly reduce the risk that it will become lost.
Take precautions around thunderstorms or fireworks displays. If you know your pet is skittish around loud or sudden noises like fireworks, be sure it has a safe place to ride out these events. Learn to recognize the signs of anxiety in your pet, and try calming techniques or products to provide relief.
Provide an escape-proof enclosure. If your dog is accustomed to spending a lot of time in the yard, be sure its enclosure is escape-proof. Fences should be high enough to prevent your animal from either leaping or scaling them, and ground supports should be secure enough to prevent digging dogs from tunneling beneath them.
Collar and ID tag your pet. All pets should wear a collar with current contract information for their owners. This simple precaution can help a Good Samaritan easily locate you and reunite you with your pet.
Microchip your dog. One of the best preventive measures you can take is to microchip your pet. Microchipping greatly increases the chances that your pet will be identified at a local vet or shelter.
We hope these tips help you and your dogs have a fun and safe July!
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.
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