What To Do If Your Pet Is Lost

By Dr . Joi Sutton|2017-10-10T14:17:09-04:00Updated: November 2nd, 2017|Pet Care, Pet Newsletter|3 Comments
  • Lost Pet - Dog

Several times in my life I’ve faced sheer panic of not knowing where one of my beloved pets had gone. Each time I was reunited with my pet, but the imagined doom after hours of searching frightened me to my very core. Like many of you, my bond with my pets is very close.

As a veterinarian I may have some inside tips that may help you should you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

First off, let’s be proactive. Most folks have a folder with their critter’s information in it. While it is fresh in your mind, find your pet’s microchip information and make sure you have current phone numbers and address are correctly registered with the microchip company. When folks bring strays to my clinic I can’t tell you how often the chip was implanted in the pet but never registered. That is so frustrating!! For this very reason my staff always does the registering of the chips for my clients. Somehow the piece of paper can get lost and the task never completed if we don’t do it the same day! I’m such a proponent of microchipping pets that I place free microchips in all my veterinary patients at my vet clinic in South Florida. Microchips reunite pets and their humans.

Also, be sure to have some current pictures of your sweetie in case you need to post signs. I may be a bit of an extremist regarding the frequency of snapping pictures of my pets, but some folks don’t have a single current picture of their pets. My cats might just think I’m the paparazzi. Am I painting a picture of a crazy lonely cat lady to you? I’m not! Honestly, I have a full life, wonderful friends and a charming boyfriend! Nonetheless, I probably do take too many pictures of my felines.

My cats live inside my house and get to venture into my enclosed screened patio. Nonetheless, each of my pets wears a collar with a tag engraved with my phone number and also the microchip number and pet’s name. They wear breakaway collars for safety, but I have tags on the collars nonetheless.

Now, what to do in an emergency:

Scour the neighborhood. This is when you find out who your true friends are as the more sets of eyes involved in the search, the better. When you canvas your neighborhood, be sure to call your pet’s name. Ask neighbors to keep a lookout. Cats often go into hiding mode when scared, especially if they are used to being indoor only, so look under trees and in sheds and such. Calling your pet’s name not only will catch your pet’s attention, it will help neighbor folks understand that you aren’t just creeping around their backyards!

Persevere. You may not find your sweetie on the first day. Sometimes a good samaritan may pick up your “stray”, not understanding that your pet actually has a loving home. Keep looking. Nonetheless, if you search all day without success, it’s time to go online and make some phone calls. Or if you have extra help, one of the team can start the tasks mentioned below right away!

Call all the local shelters and all nearby vet clinics and emergency vet clinics. Alert them to be on the lookout. Call the shelters daily. Get a contact number for someone at each shelter. Email these clinics and shelters a picture!

Neighborhood forums can be very helpful. In my neighborhood there is one called “Nextdoor”. I see comments about lost and found pets on a regular basis. Topics range from recommendations for lawn service and AC repair to neighborhood safety. I saw lots of good suggestions for local services after the recent hurricane here in South Florida. It’s quite a helpful community builder. Consider joining such an online group or if one does not exist, be proactive and look into starting one.

Call your microchip company. Let them know your pet is lost and they might broadcast pictures to local clinics and shelters for you. Again, check in daily.

Post signs at the local grocery stores, coffee shops, post offices, churches and light posts in the neighborhood and anywhere else that you can that has heavy foot-traffic to get the word out. Post an ad on craigslist and read any posts for found pets.

Just keep trying! Don’t give up hope.

Have a question or comment? Post below or email me at [email protected]. I always enjoy hearing from my readers!

NOTE: Consult your veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your pets special health needs.

About the Author: Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr. Joi Sutton is a 1993 graduate from Oregon State University. She has practiced both in emergency medicine and general practice. Dr. Sutton has done extensive international volunteer work though Veterinary Ventures, a nonprofit organization that takes teams of veterinarians to undeveloped countries for humane medical care. She also runs a small animal practice in South Florida. Connect with Dr. Joi on LinkedIn


  1. Erica November 6, 2017 at 11:08 am - Reply

    Dr. Joi, I know the feeling of terror, helplessness and deep gut fear from loosing a little one. One thing in addition to your very excellent and comprehensive
    list that I was able to afford was a 1/4 page ad in our small town newspaper. They were very kind when after she came home in 48 hours (and we had to take
    down all of the posters), they couldn’t refund the $500, but they changed the ad complete with her photo, to say she was safe at home and thanks!


    • Dr Joi November 11, 2017 at 1:31 pm - Reply


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