From lost to found: What happens when your pet gets lost


A lost dog or cat is a scary situation for both you and your four-legged family member. The best thing you can do is to prepare before your pet is lost – come up with a plan, keep current photos on hand, and microchip and ID your pets.

Here’s what else you should do to make sure you get reunited with your fur baby – and how to prevent an escape from happening (or happening again).

My pet is lost! What do I do?
This is a crucial time – the sooner you start your search, the better your chances are of finding Fido. The best thing to do is stay calm and stay practical.

  1. Make an educated guess as to where he is.
    If he’s lost in your neighborhood, your pet is likely in one of three places:
  • Wandering around nearby.
  • With a caring neighbor who picked him up.
  • With animal control or at a shelter, if someone found him and couldn’t take him in.

If you are, say, camping or hiking and your dog runs off, another hiker or park ranger could find your pet and take him to an information booth.

  1. Determine if he may be injured.
    If your pet is potentially injured – perhaps after crawling through a jagged fence or broken glass window – he is more likely to be hiding in what he thinks is a safe spot (such as an enclosed or covered area), or at a local veterinarian, if someone found him.

How do I start the search to find my pet?
Now that you know where you pet likely is, you can begin your search in a reasonable place. If you’re near home:

  • Check social media groups such as Nextdoor, Facebook lost and found pets pages,, and more. If you don’t see your pet there, post a photo and contact information on these sites. Also include other identifying information, such as distinguishing marks, your pet’s name, collar color, and age.
  • Go “old school” and post flyers around your neighborhood – include the same information, and if you are offering a reward, include it as well. Even if you have limited access to a computer or printer, you can print copies at your local public library or at a printing company such as FedEx, Office Depot, or Staples.
  • Go door-to-door, if possible, and ask neighbors if they have seen your pet. Take photos or flyers you can leave with neighbors so they can contact you right away if they find your pet.

If you lose your dog in an unfamiliar place:

  • Place the flyers around that neighborhood, including nearby parks and animal shelters.
  • Check social media groups for the neighborhood your pet got lost in, and include the fact that this is not a familiar area for your pet.
  • Make sure your pet’s microchip (if he has one) is registered to your current address and phone number, and if not, update the database as quickly as possible.

How can I prevent (another) escape?
Hopefully, your pet is returned to you safe and sound! Better yet, though, he never escapes. Regardless, here are some ways to prevent a great escape:

  • Check fences. If you allow your pets to be in a fenced yard unsupervised, be sure to check your fence’s integrity regularly. Check for holes and loose boards, as well as nails or screws that are poking out.
  • Close the door. This is an obvious one, but maybe not for children, or visitors who don’t own pets. Be sure your door is fully closed behind visitors, and teach children not to linger with the door open.
  • Kennel during heavy traffic times. If you are going to have the cable guy or other service workers going in and out of your house, keep your pets in kennels. A little barking or yowling is a better alternative to a lost pet!
  • Microchip and use ID tags. Microchip your pets – dogs and cats adopted from shelters often come microchipped before you adopt, and any other pets can be microchipped here in our clinic. Attach ID tags to your pets’ collars as well – you can purchase them at any pet store chain, or online. The tags should have your pet’s name and your contact information. You can also get the pet’s name and a phone number embroidered on your pets’ collars.
  • Use a GPS tracking device. Want to take it a step further? Attach a GPS-tracking device such as Tile, Whistle, Paw Tracker, or a similar device to your pet’s collar. Many of these devices offer Fitbit-like features for your pet, such as exercise tracking. More importantly, however, they offer peace of mind in knowing where your pet is at all times.