Q: We recently purchased a purebred Dalmatian that my husband and I are planning to show and eventually use for breeding. He is only 7 weeks old and has had a health exam by a veterinarian, along with his first vaccinations. Is there any way that we can positively identify this dog in case he gets lost or stolen? I have heard of having dogs tattooed, but I don't know where to get this done. What do you suggest as a means of identifying this puppy?
Beverly Archer, Los Alamitos
A: There are several methods of identification available to help positively identify your dog. Many veterinarians have small tattoo units and would be able to put some form of letters or numbers on your dog as a means of identification. Many people use their California driver's license number or the dog's AKC number and have it tattooed on the inside of the thigh. Some prefer initials on the inside of an ear flap. Either method is fine but should be done in such a manner as not to be visible in the show ring. In most cases, sedation or anesthesia is required to perform the procedure.
Some people prefer to take detailed photographs of their dogs, especially if there are any particular outstanding features or markings. This is always a good idea even if the pet is tattooed. Photographs can be used on notices when looking for a stray or stolen pet, as well as when advertising for breeding. Be sure to keep the pictures current as your dog matures.
There is another method that involves injecting a computer chip inside a sterile capsule under the skin of your dog. This chip can be located with a scanner, and the registration number assigned to the particular dog is identified. This program is being tested in the Los Angeles area as a pilot program for pet identification and has promise as a means of identifying lost pets and returning them to their owners.
Whichever method of identification you decide to use depends on your needs. Tattoos are permanent but should not interfere with the show quality of your dog. Keep good records and current pictures in case anything should happen. Your veterinarian can help you decide and possibly perform the service for you.
Got a question about your pet? Write to: Dr. Glenn Ericson, Ask the Vet, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626. Ericson, a practicing Orange County veterinarian, is immediate past president of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Assn.