Pet Indentification – Tags, Tattoo or Microchip?

 “My cat has a collar and tag – why does he need a tattoo?”

I look to the animal shelters and SPCA filled with stray animals. Many of these animals had collars and tags….but they do not arrive with them. Collars can fall off, get hooked on a branch, break the clasp (or have it open with the newer quick release collars). Any of these can leave your pet without identification and on the receiving end of a quick trip to the SPCA. The first thing they do is look for tattoos or microchips – these are the most failsafe ways to ensure that your pet arrives back home to you.

Nobody expects to lose their pet, yet it happens all too often. A great number lost or stolen pets never make it back home.To maximize the chance of having your beloved pet returned, we strongly recommend you have him/her tattooed or micro-chipped, or even both.There are advantages to both programs and really no disadvantages to either.


A series of numbers and letters are tattooed in the right ear of your pet, while they are under heavy sedation (most often while they are anesthetized for their spay or neuter). Burnaby New Westminster Animal Hospital participates in a province wide tattoo registration program, coordinated by the BCVMA. This helps by registering the tattoo and enables the pet to be directed back to their home when they are found.

  • Advantages: Tattoos are visible to anyone who looks for them, making it easy for a person to identify your pet. Unfortunately tattoos can fade over time.
  • Disadvantages: Tattoos must be done while your pet is sedated. This limits when a pet can be tattooed. The tattoos are specific to the hospital where the tattoo is done. Although a tattoo is registered, it is registered to the hospital that tattooed your pet. Therefore if you move, you need to update your contact information with your new vet so that the tattoo information will direct people to your new location if they find your pet.


In this case your pet would have a tiny microchip (encased in a bio-medical capsule about the size of a grain of rice) implanted with a specialized needle just under the loose skin between the shoulder blades. Most animals do not require sedation for this procedure and so microchips can be inserted during a regular appointment with the vet.
  • Advantages: This microchip can be scanned by any animal shelter or veterinary office and the encoded information entered into a data base to trace the pet back to its owner. The data base is North America-wide and covers much of Europe as well. Does not require sedation to be inserted.
  • Disadvantages: Slightly more expensive than tattoos.
The microchip is the safest way to permanently ID your pet. Next is the ear tattoo – but it requires that the pet owner reregister their pet’s ear tattoo if they move. Plus the tattoo can fade over time. Not as permanent and requires a bit of work from the humans involved. Unfortunately, although quite common, tags on the collar are the least effective way to ID your pet.

What type of identification does your pet have? Contact us at (604) 521-0781 for more information about pet tattoos and microchips.

The Case for Health Insurance for Pets

Our pets are members of our family. As pet owners, we are familiar with the change in family dynamics when our four legged family members become sick. Too often as a veterinarian, my patients are unable to receive optimal treatment for their illness due to financial constraints – and too often this can be a question of their survival.

Pet insurance gives me peace of mind, knowing that if there is an emergency situation, I will be able to manage it financially. I suspect that many pet owners do not know that pet insurance covers routine wellness procedures such as dental treatments and wellness visits. In Europe, 30% of pet owners have insurance. In North America, only 3% of owners have policies. I have first hand seen the benefits to pets and their families on having coverage.

As a veterinarian I advocate pet insurance and encourage owners to look into covering their pets. However, when looking for a policy, there are questions that you should ask as a lot of them do not work in the same way as human health policy. The following web site outlines some of the concerns pet owners should have:

At Care Pet Wellness Group, we are not directly associated with any insurance company or any insurance product. Any member of our team would be happy to answer any questions you may have about this subject, or you can visit: