Have You Chipped Your Pet Yet? Here's Everything You Need to Know to Get Started.

If you’ve ever lost a pet, you know how heart-wrenching it can be. The American Humane Association claims that over 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen in the U.S. each year. For peace of mind, electronic microchip tags are the ideal modern method for keeping a permanent form of your pet’s information secure in case of loss or theft. Here’s Willow’s guide to making an informed decision about microchipping your pet.

What’s the Deal? Pet microchip (with rice grains for scale)

Microchip tagging is a hi-tech replacement for the traditional collar tags, which can easily fall off and get lost or accumulate scratches that render the contact information unreadable. Microchips are tiny, subcutaneous (beneath the skin) pieces of tech that are designed to last the entire life of your pet, and they don’t require batteries or charging of any kind.

Is it Safe?

X-Ray view of pet microchip You may be worried about the safety of the procedure for implanting a microchip. The chip in question is about the size of a grain of rice (see above). The actual implantation is a painless process that can be performed by any veterinarian, and is no more disturbing to the pet than receiving a vaccine injection — no anesthetic is required, no post-procedure recovery. Once implanted, the chip causes no further discomfort to the animal. Chips are available for both cats and dogs. The procedure is relatively inexpensive, costing around $45 — about the same as the cost of a month of food for your pet. There are several different registries available, some of which offer additional services such as emergency medical hotlines and travel assistance for lost pets at little to no additional cost. Microchipping your beloved pet is a no brainer in these dark days of pet flipping, greatly increasing the chances of having your lost pets returned to you.

Beware the Dog-nappers: 5 Things You Can Do to Protect Your Pets

We’ve recently been made aware of a disturbing new trend in crimes against animals (and their owners): “pet flipping.” No, this isn’t some kind of zany new YouTube trend with children tossing their pets around on video (thank goodness!). This is where a lost pet is fraudulently claimed by someone posing as the owner, who then turns around and tries to sell the pet using a service like Craigslist. Some are even so bold as to steal pets right out of people’s back yards.

Police have said that these criminals are able to make between $50 and $1000 per animal, depending on the breed (predictably, purebred dogs fetch much more on the black market). In some cases, dog thieves will take an unsupervised dog, wait for the owner to put up “Lost Dog” signs, and then demand reward money for “finding” them. In other cases, people posing as dog-sitters will turn out to be dog-nappers.

This dog-napping for ransom is certainly a scary trend for any pet owner who loves their furry friend.

Here are five effective ways to protect your pets from would-be thieves:

  1. find lost dog
    Microchips make it easy to locate missing pets

    Microchip your dog. This is a sure fire way to track your pet and prove ownership in case of a dispute. If you’ve already taken this step, be sure to keep the tracking database up to date with your current address and telephone number. If you haven’t had a chance to get your pet chipped yet, be sure to at least have plenty of pictures of you and the animal together, as this is one easy way to attempt to prove ownership. Vet records are also useful.

  2. dog gps If you want more direct access to information about your pet’s location, check out some of the new GPS-enabled gadgets coming out that can be used to keep track of them from your smart phone. We have profiled several here for your convenience.

  3. national association of professional pet sittersThoroughly vet (no pun intended!) any potential pet-sitters, and confirm their contact information before entrusting them with your special critter. Consider using a certified pet sitter.

  4. dogAlways keep your dog closely supervised, especially if you commonly let them play in your yard unattended.

  5. If you do manage to lose your pet, be sure to check on sites like Craigslist.com to see if any unscrupulous characters are trying to sell your animal.

We sure hope you never have to deal with the theft of your beloved pets! Have you or anyone you know fallen prey to this kind of activity? Have some additional tips for keeping your pets safe and sound? Please be sure to share your experiences with us in the comments. Be safe, pet owners.

Top 10 Apps & Gadgets for Pet Owners

Every day, our tech becomes better and better at addressing our everyday needs. For animal lovers, that includes helping us care for our pets. Here are ten of our favorite mobile apps, gadgets, and other whats-its (and a few forthcoming ones that we’re excited about) that will help you out with various pet-related tasks, like feed, watching, tracking, monitoring, and first aid.

1. Tagg

Tagg GPS tracking collar

This rechargeable GPS tracking collar takes safety one step further than a microchip, sending you text messages and emails if your pet leaves  the safety zone you establish. You can see where your furry friend has been, and find their exact location using a smartphone app. The collar also logs activity over 90-day periods, allowing you to see how much energy your pet is expending, or whether there are any changes in behavior that might signal illness or other irregularities. Available for cats or dogs, the device and first three months of tracking service costs $100, then $7.95 per month.


2. FitBark

FitBark Bluetooth collar attachment

This one’s not available yet, but we’re looking forward to checking it out. With this small, bone-shaped Bluetooth collar attachment you can start keeping track of your dog’s exercise to make sure he or she is getting what they need. A smartphone app logs your dog’s activity and sends you reports that compare it with recommended levels. A base station connects to your home Wi-Fi network and uploads logged activity that you can access online while you’re out. The product is in its second round of Kickstarter funding and should be available in December 2013. Available in five colors, it’s currently available to Kickstarter pledge backers for $60.


3. iCam

iCam app for pets

Watch your pet from afar with this app for iOS and Android. Keep an eye on any pet in real-time, right on your smartphone or other mobile device. Take the anxiety out of long trips with a comforting glance — or enjoy catching your beloved animal doing what they do when you’re not around!


4. PetCube

PetCube Camera

You and your pet can enjoy each other remotely with this camera, speakers, microphone and laser pointer all in one. The cube resembles a small speaker, fit with a 162-degree wide-angle camera that streams 720p video to your smartphone or computer. You can give access to family and friends and let everyone in on the fun, no matter where they are! The app also gives you the ability to interact with animals in shelters located around the world where PetCubes have been set up, bringing some joy to animals down on their luck. PetCube is currently available for pre-order and is expected to start shipping this fall.


5. PetziConnect by Petzila

PetziConnect by Petzila

This gadget also allows you to watch and speak to your pet from outside the home, with another handy feature: it drops a treat at the touch of a button on your smartphone. The device plugs into any wall outlet for a pet-level view and connects to your home Wi-Fi network. Talk to your companion via the smartphone app or Web portal, or take a picture or video and post it to any social network. Petziconnect is built for durability, the company says, in case your pet tries to access those treats without your help. The product is seeking backers on Indiegogo and is available to pre-order for $99, with first shipments slated for December 2013.


6. Sony Action Cam Pet Pack

Sony Action Cam Pet Pack

Want to see the world from your dog’s perspective? Sony’s HDR-AS15 Action Cam can make that happen in 1080p resolution video at 60 fps, with Steadyshot image stabilization for smooth shooting no matter how crazy your dog gets bounding along. The camera is designed to resist water, mud, dirt and dust. It mounts on a harness that best fits dogs 33 lbs and over. The camera weighs a little more than 4.5 ounces and won’t impede your dog’s playtime. You can fast-upload the videos via the built-in Wi-Fi connection, or with Sony’s PlayMemories Mobile app. The camera and harness ship later this month for $329.99, or if you already have an Action Cam, you can purchase the harness for $45.


7. Petoxins

Use this app from the ASPCA to help keep your pet safe from toxic plants. The agency’s Animal Poison Control Center handled more than 140,000 cases of pets in 2009. It’s team of toxicologists put together a comprehensive database of plants reported to have harmful effects on dogs, cats and horses. The searchable database includes plant names, images, potential symptoms if ingested, first-aid information and one-touch dialing to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for iPhone users. Use it in case of emergency, to ensure the safety of your regular walking routes, or when buying plants for your home and garden.


8. Pet First Aid

This app for iOS and Android puts first aid for your pet at your fingertips, complete with videos and illustrations demonstrating proper restraint, muzzling, bandaging, CPR and other emergency responses. Dozens of articles cover myriad maladies, from scratches to fractures to impaling. All content is bundled with the app, so the information is handy when you’re in the wild away from an internet connection. You can also use it to record their vaccinations, identifications, veterinarian contact info, medications, allergies and conditions, and any other reference notes for your visits to the vet.


9. MyPetMinder


Keep track of any important dates and events for your pet with this iOS app. Great for remembering vet visits, administering medication, changing food or water, or anything else involving your pet. Designed to be user-friendly, MyPetMinder keeps it all in one place.





10. Foursquare

You might already use it in your own life, but consider Foursquare to help organize your pet’s needs and activities as well. Find vet offices, pet stores and dog parks in your community, or locate friends with pets nearby for a playdate. The app is available on iOS, Android and Blackberry App World.


Bonus: Dog Whistler

Dog Whistler iOS App

Train your dog with this free app available for iOS. The whistle is fully customizable; you can set the frequency and pattern, and set it on a timer. Potentially useful for calling a lost dog, breaking up a canine fight or just getting your dog’s — or family and friends’ — attention.