Many veterinarians suggest having your dog tattooed or microchipped, as well—so he can be conclusively identified for the rest of his life. If your Chihuahua is ever lost or stolen and taken to a veterinarian, shelter, or animal control agency, he will be checked for a tattoo and scanned for a microchip.
A tattoo for a dog looks virtually the same as a human’s tattoo and is applied in a similar manner. A unique number in permanent ink is applied with a needle onto the dog’s skin—usually on the inside of the right thigh. Since being restrained during this procedure would be both uncomfortable and potentially scary for the animal, most vets recommend that the dog be put under anesthesia.
A good way to avoid an unnecessary anesthesia is having the tattoo applied when your dog is being spayed or neutered, since he will have to be under anesthesia for this reason, as well.
There is no need to worry if you plan to show your dog. A tattoo will not disqualify or count against your Chihuahua in the ring. On the contrary, many people involved with this pastime encourage the use of tattooing for safety purposes.
Microchipping involves implanting a tiny electronic device (about the size of a grain of rice) beneath the dog’s skin between his shoulder blades. The procedure is as quick and painless as a vaccination and is less expensive than tattooing since anesthesia is not necessary.
These permanent forms of identification are the safest ways to help ensure that your Chihuahua is returned to you in either situation, but you must register either a tattoo or a microchip with the appropriate directory in order for the related numbers to link your dog to you. For this reason it is also vital that you update your contact information with this agency whenever you move or change phone numbers.
Likewise, if you move, inform your new vet that your dog has been microchipped, so the number may be added to his or her records, as well. Once your pet is lost or stolen, it is too late, so if this is something you want done, ask your veterinarian about it during your dog’s first visit.
Licensing and ID Tags
Most states require that all owners license their dogs. Although it may seem like an inconvenience, licensing your Chihuahua can provide you and your dog with an important benefit. Many states keep registries for all identification numbers, making it possible to quickly identify your dog should he ever be lost.
Call your local city or town office to find out what paperwork you should bring when applying for registration. You will need to renew this license annually, but the fee is usually minimal—less than a small bag of dog food in most cases. You will pay even less to register a spayed or neutered dog.
A license cannot help identify your Chihuahua if he isn’t wearing it, though, so be sure to attach the license securely to your dog’s harness. You might think that losing a dog only happens to other owners, but countless dogs escape their homes and become lost each year.
You can also purchase an additional tag engraved with your Chihuahua’s name as well as your own name, address, and phone number (don’t forget to include your area code). Available through mail order catalogs and online, these items can often also be bought and engraved on the spot by self-serve machines in many pet supply stores. Just keep in mind that for a Chihuahua, smaller is better.
Identification tags can be very helpful if your Chihuahua is lost, but if your dog is stolen, a tag will likely be removed. Many owners do not realize that a stolen dog cannot be returned to its legitimate owner unless he can be legally identified. Photos of your dog can be tremendously helpful to the police for the search and for proving that he indeed belongs to you, but even photos are not 100 percent reliable in verifying identity.