Pets are members of our families. They rely on us for food, for shelter, for warmth, for love, and for safety. In many ways, they depend on us as much as our children do, and for some, their pets are their fur babies. That is why, when the worst happens and Fido disappears from the yard, owners are left devastated. It is times like these when a calm approach and a solid plan can help ensure our family pet makes his way home. By using multiple avenues to search, you can bring your best friend home fast.

Go for a walk: While you are out walking around, check in with your neighbors, let them know your friend is missing, and ask them to keep an eye out for your pet. Also look for signs of construction or basic home maintenance in the neighborhood. A client once found their lost pet in a neighbor’s crawl space after they had been doing repairs. The cat had hidden in the crawl space during bad weather and was inadvertently locked inside. The neighbor found him, alive, several days later.

Go for a drive: Odds are unless he’s been gone for a long time, your best friend may still be in the area. He may have chased a squirrel into an area he’s not familiar with, or she may be hiding from bad weather. Before you take any other steps, hop in the car and take a quick drive around the neighborhood, going further than you walked, calling his name. You may find him excitedly chasing your vehicle when he hears your voice. Bring along his favorite treat in case you need to coax him out of his hiding place.

Social Media: Make sure you keep current photos of your pet on your phone. A good rule of thumb is to take a new photo with every grooming. Ensure that you have a well-lit photo of your pet’s face, as well as his coloring and a full body image. These are important because blurry or dark photos will make it difficult for others to identify your pet. Then post photos of your pet on social media outlets like: Facebook (also search for neighborhood groups in your area), Nextdoor (Run by police departments in certain areas), Craigslist, Twitter, and even Instagram. You can also send a photo of your pet to the social media pages of Family Pet Hospital to be shared with our followers.

Posters: As hard as it may be to believe at times, not everyone uses social media. Especially older generations. If a retired neighbor has found your pet, they may be caring for them while they look for their owner, to help keep him safe. A young child may have found your pet and thought he was a stray. Or, a neighborhood child may have seen him running around while they were on the bus to school. Have posters printed and put them up around your neighborhood. Other places may include at the elementary schools (kids are really observant!) and your local library. Make sure to have a clear photo with large font. Keep it simple so it’s easily visible. Include his name, age, and approximate weight, as well as the date and location he was last seen. People you wouldn’t reach otherwise will see posters, and you exponentially increase your reach.

Phone calls: Call Family Pet Hospital and other local veterinarians right away. Veterinarians often hear about stray animals, may be in touch with animal shelters for injured animals, and people often contact them to check for a microchip. If they have your information and know you are looking for him, then they can help keep an eye out. Also, contact every local animal shelter within 60 miles. Provide them with a full description of your pet, as well as all of your contact information. The animal shelters can get in touch with you if a pet matching your description comes in. They love to see happy reunions between well-loved pets and their people.

There are preemptive measures you can take to help prevent your pet from getting loose, but also to help ensure that when they do – they make their way home safely. Make sure that your pet has a well-fitting collar, with visible ID tags with your name and contact information. If you have a fence, make sure your fence is well built and check frequently for loose boards and low points where your best friend could sneak under. Keep your pet indoors when you aren’t home, so he doesn’t have the opportunity to get out. Also, neutering your male dog helps prevent them from roaming to seek out a mate (as well as prevents any unwanted litters!).

Of course, there is one thing that every pet owner can and should do to help ensure that their pet gets home to them safely. Micro-chipping your pet is the most efficient way to find them when the worst happens. With a simple, inexpensive procedure (something that is easily done while your pet is being spayed or neutered) your pet receives a permanent implant under the skin, about the size of a grain of rice. This chip is placed between your dog’s shoulder blades, and when scanned it provides an identification number. This identification number is unique to your pet, and when kept properly updated provides information to the veterinarian to put them back in touch with you. This is simply the best way to make sure that your best friend finds his way home. (The American Animal Hospital Association keeps a comprehensive database of various microchip and pet finding services.)

We encourage all pet parents to take advantage of microchipping their pet, but sometimes things happen before you are able to get that done. If that happens, don’t be afraid to contact us. We will be glad to put up your pet’s picture in hopes that someone will see him. Most of all, don’t give up hope. Many pets are lucky enough to find their own way home.