Today’s National Lost Dog Day

Have you ever lost a dog? You’re not alone — millions of dogs go missing each year. Some are returned, while for others their fate remains unknown to their loving families. As an ER vet, I’ve had the luck of returning many dogs to their families after they’ve wandered off, but I’ve also had the heartache of having to deal with many injured strays over the years, and the stories don’t always end happily. This year’s National Lost Dog Day is today, April 23, so we are here to help with a little information.

When a dog gets lost, there are several steps you should take:

  • Coat the neighborhood with as many flyers as you can. Include a large, clear, recent picture, your pet’s name and your contact information. A reward will make return that much more likely. If your dog has an illness or is on medication, use that to your advantage — it may make the difference.
  • Craigslist has a pet lost and found section and in the vet ER that’s one of the first places we look. If your pet is missing, post a missing notice there with the same information as above: it’s the modern day equivalent to a poster on a streetlamp.
  • Call the local veterinary ERs to see if any strays have been brought in. Uninjured strays are usually sent to animal control right away, but if they are injured, they may still be at the vet’s office receiving treatment. If they are being treated, the cost of treatment is your responsibility to pay — even if you didn’t OK it. Your dog is your responsibility and the ER shouldn’t have to take a financial hit because they did the right thing.
  • Call all the nearby shelters you can find and make sure you contact local animal control. Usually the local police non-emergency number can connect you after hours (don’t call 911; that’s for life-threatening emergencies only).
  • Ask your church, synagogue or mosque to spread the word to the membership — that’s an easy way to reach a lot of nearby people in a hurry.
  • Many neighborhoods now maintain websites with contact info for hundreds of local people. If your neighborhood has one, an email alert can go out to dozens of folks who may live within just a few blocks of you. A dog’s natural instinct to roam is only balanced by their natural instinct to find home, so they may not be far. Send an email to the neighborhood and you may have your pooch home before supper! In my neighborhood, I’ve returned a few dogs to their happy owners this way.

Like many things in life, prevention is the key to avoiding being in a lost dog situation in the first place. Make sure your fence is secure and the gate latches shut. Check all of the slats and make sure none are rotting or missing — replace any that can be moved aside for an escape attempt. Dogs like to dig under fences, so make sure that the base is secure and consider having a concrete barrier under the base.

Make sure your dog has an ID tag with current contact information and consider getting a microchip — and if you do, keep the information current. If your dog has the right ID and you take the steps outlined above, you’ll have better chances of a safe and happy return if they do go missing.

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