It Won’t Happen To Me! Know This Just In Case Your Pet Goes Missing…

Photo Credits: IStock Fergregory

We see them everywhere, everyday and have even found a few ourselves!

You must have noticed.

From social media, pole posters and lawn signs; lost/missing and found pet posters are popping up more and more! Are we losing pets more frequently or are social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter making us more aware? If that’s the case then, bonus! The more we share the easier it is for these pets to make their way back into their homes safely.

In a flash they can be gone! What would you do if your pet was ever lost?

Our personal experience stops at chasing our tripod husky through the neighboring hay fields after a few backyard escapes. Luckily he tired easily and wasn’t ever up for a game of chase for too long. We’ve also picked up a few runners off of the side of the road and taken them to local veterinary offices until they were reunited with their families.

Sadly, the outcomes aren’t always happy.

We set out to find a topic expert to answer our questions and give us some tips to better prepare us and you should we ever end up in this situation.

Emma Murdock of Ottawa, Ontario is both the Founder & CEO of Walk With Me Ottawa and Lost and Hound Canada. Emma takes pride in learning all there is to know about our canine companions. She says that every dog has something knew to teach her and now she wants to share that knowledge with us.

We asked our expert key questions that would send us in the right direction if our pets ever went missing!

MPTR: Emma, can you tell us how pets are escaping? Are there any trends you are seeing?

EM: A lot of pets go missing by escaping through front doors, backyard gates or car doors while travelling.  We do see an increase in missing pets around holidays as a result of fireworks. Thunderstorms also cause a significant number of missing pets due to the barometric pressure and thunder scaring them. Spring is also a typical time to have pets run away or get lost due to all the fresh scents and spring air!

MPTR: If my pet goes missing what are some of things I need to do?

EM: The first and most important thing you need to focus on is spreading the word as fast and far as possible. Social media is great for this. Call your local humane society/shelters, local vets/groomers/kennels, etc. because if anyone finds your pet, they will likely bring them to one of these places. You should also make posters and disperse them to all mailboxes and local businesses within a 20km (12mi) radius of home/where the pet was last seen. I also like to have small sized cards to distribute with the owner’s name/phone number so when you are out on foot searching, you can hand them out to people easily. You also need to call bylaw to inform them of the missing pet and file a lost report with your local humane society. There are more tips in our book which will be released this summer.

MPTR: Should I go out looking for my pet or stay at home and wait it out? Is there anywhere in particular I should check?

EM: This depends on where and how the pet went missing. I think it is important to have someone at home, or leave the backyard gate open in case the pet does find its way back. You definitely should go out looking via car/on foot and recruit some volunteers to help you but HOW they go about searching and how they interact with the missing dog is crucial – which we talk about a lot in our book.

Pets will typically take the path of least resistance- trails, sidewalks, railroads etc. But if they’re frightened, they will hide. We don’t recommend calling out for your pet after the first half hour of being missing as they enter feral mode very quickly and we don’t want to further spook them. Sources of food and water are great places to search after a few days, but in initial stages the pets are usually travelling, or hiding.

MPTR: I’m all about being proactive so tell me, what can I do to be prepared in this situation? Is an ID tag enough?

EM: ID tags are great and I highly recommend having one or having a collar with your phone number engraved onto it. Microchips are also a crucial component to get your lost pet home as quickly as possible. There are many GPS/bluetooth tags that your pet can wear these days but to be honest, I have yet to find one that works very well in Canada.

MPTR: Not only are pets lost every day, they are also found. What should I do if I find a pet?

EM: Ooh this is a great question that is so often overlooked. The first thing to do if you can safely catch the pet is to keep it secure (slip leash, fenced yard, in crate, or in your house) and check for name tag/rabies tag etc. From there, you may be able to find the owner directly. If it has no tags or no collar, take it to the nearest vet and have it scanned for a microchip free of charge. If you are unable to keep the pet with you, you can call bylaw (311 in Ottawa) and animal services will come to you, scan the pet for a chip and reunite with owner if possible, or bring to the local humane society. Posting online is another good way to reconnect with the owner but be sure to keep some of the pets info private so you don’t get any weird pet thieves trying to nab them!

MPTR: I imagine that losing a pet can be exhausting both physically and mentally for a family. Is there anywhere that a pet owner can go for support?

EM: Having a solid network of friends and family who will help you is so important. We hope that Lost & Hound can continue to be a great support system for people struggling with missing pets and we look forward to our workshops bringing people together in the future. It’s amazing how many missing dogs can be reunited with their families by other people looking for their own dogs.

It is so important to ensure you care for yourself while you are dealing with this or else you wont be able to perform at your best. Make sure you get some sleep, eat well and drink lots of water while going through this ordeal. The after effects of adrenaline can also hinder you so make sure to be aware of that and take care of yourself. Deep breathing really helps.

PTR: Emma, as our topic expert do you have any words of advice or encouragement for any pet owners that are looking for their missing pet right now?

EM: Don’t give up!! I have heard the craziest stories of pets being reunited after YEARS across the country, so don’t ever give up and remember that they are way more resilient than we give them credit for.

PTR: You’ve mentioned a new book. What can you tell us about it?

EM: Lost & Hound is releasing an affordable digital e book that will have all the tips and tricks to help you get your dog home safe and sound. It will include what NOT to do as well and a lot of resources (checklist, poster template). It will be accessible from your phone so you’ll always have it with you when you need it. We will also be providing phone consults to people with missing dogs and educating canine professionals through workshops on how to handle a missing dog – how to prevent it from happening in the first place, how to get the dog back and how to handle the PR. Be sure to check out and like our facebook page for updates. Stay tuned for the book release this summer! 

It’s important to know that services like the ones offered by Emma and her team exist and that these experts are available to assist us should we ever end up with a found, lost or missing pet!

You can read some feel good stories about pets being reunited with their owners here:

This cat was reunited with his owner after 14 years!

Here’s a story of how social media helped get a dog back home.

Share your stories of lost/missing or found pets below! We love to hear from our readers.

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  1. Reply Barbara Lagace May 3, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    Great topic Shannon and some great info from Emma.

  2. Reply Hindy Pearson May 4, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    Wonderful tips thanks for sharing. A few years ago we adopted a puppy mill rescue, and while out walking one day she freaked and got out of her collar. We had no idea how traumatised she had been, so didn’t realise I should have used a harness. Needless to say after that no dog goes out without one. There was no way to catch her, my husband cycled around looking, and we were frantic. We called the humane unit of our local police department, local shelters, vets… The police were amazing, they rode around looking for her, kept us updated and finally six hours later a police officer brought her home. I’m super careful about doors being left open, microchips and tags with collars, but I was unprepared for this situation which was easily preventable. Luckily she was found safe and sound, but sadly not every case has a happy ending.

    • Reply Shannon Giust May 7, 2018 at 12:47 am

      That must have been so scary!!! I use martingales to avoid backing out of collars and a few near misses. It can happen in an instant. Sounds like you’re well covered now! I even include our address on my pets tags just in case and only remove for crating.

  3. Reply Holly May 4, 2018 at 9:25 pm

    I’ve had two moments when I thought I lost a cat, once while we were in the midst of moving. It is the most terrifying feeling. I was lucky that my cats were just hiding. Around here there is a volunteer service called Maine Lost Cat Recovery. It is primarily Facebook-based, but they help pet parents who have lost a cat (there’s a dog version as well) to make posters and advise them on how to canvas and post. They have a good resource on what to do if you lose a pet.

    • Reply Shannon Giust May 7, 2018 at 12:45 am

      Many many years ago I lost my cat. She escaped during a move and we never found her. This was before social media and times of rapid sharing and still to this day I always keep my eyes open in that area of the city, she’s never left my mind. 🙁

  4. Reply Ruth Epstein May 5, 2018 at 3:30 am

    Great tips. It is my biggest fear although am fortunate that Layla sticks to me like velcro in dog parks. My friend lost her foster dog on Monday, it got out but good news they found him 5 miles away safe and sound last night, what a relief it was for all of us. She had posted everywhere plus made a facebook page and so much more.

    • Reply Shannon Giust May 7, 2018 at 12:43 am

      Phew!! I’m so happy to hear that your friend’s little foster was found! It’s amazing how people can pull together for a common goal. Thanks.

  5. Reply Adriana May 5, 2018 at 6:07 am

    Very good tips and yes everyone thinks their dog or cat won’t get lost and when you least expected happens. It is good that you are giving tips for prevention and what to do when it actually happens. I have not lost a pet just yet but you never know. Thanks!

    • Reply Shannon Giust May 7, 2018 at 12:41 am

      Thank you!!
      I used to work at a shelter… the numbers of lost or abandoned pets…. 🙁
      I just hope that these tips can help somebody if they are ever in this terrible situation.

  6. Reply Kamira May 5, 2018 at 3:01 pm

    I’ll have to pin this post. Great tips for steps to take if a pet is lost or found. Thanks for this post. Often times people find strays or lost pets not knowing what to do next or just keeping them at their home all the while someone else is frantic over losing their pet. Will pin!

  7. Reply Kamira May 5, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    Great post! So many people lose or find pets and don’t know what steps to take next. This post is a great action plan to follow. Will pin!

    • Reply Shannon Giust May 7, 2018 at 12:39 am

      Thank you! The more we know the faster they get home. 🙂

  8. Reply Dorothy "FiveSibesMom" May 5, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    Excellent tips! Seeing the posters break my heart to think of these lost furbabies. But the posters are so important to do. I did a two-part series, “Help! I’m Lost!” on my show “The Sibe Vibe” with the folks from Lost Dogs of America and Lost/Found Husky Dogs – it is such a fear and can easily happen to any one. Having these tips and being prepared is key, while praying it never happens. I’m Pinning your blog post! I just followed your social media accounts, too! (under FiveSibes)!

    • Reply Shannon Giust May 7, 2018 at 12:38 am

      Thank you and important with all pets! Especially the runners!! 😉 Your dogs are beautiful! One of my favorite breeds.

  9. Reply Beth May 6, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    It is really scary when a pet is missing. I’ve had several lost dogs come into my yard, luckily I was able to get them home. (Tags with a phone number make it so easy to help a get a lost dog home.)

    • Reply Shannon Giust May 7, 2018 at 12:36 am

      I seem to be not so lucky and the ones we come across have had visible identification. Thankfully one was chipped and being from a smaller town we only have one vet and owners call their first as a trend.

  10. Reply Amy Hempe May 6, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    These are great recommendations. I would use a couple of social media platforms: Next Door, Facebook, and FB neighborhood pages. Sometimes animal shelter sites are linked with private shelters, other times not. And trust the kids in the neighborhood too – many of them are actually not on social media but they know about lost dogs. Putting up signs will get their attention, and they can ask around.

  11. Reply Dash Kitten Crew May 6, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    I appreciate this, even though we have cats and not dogs. Losing a pet through wandering is a nightmare and the UK at the moment has a killer on the loose who is taking pets.

    We all need to be reminded that there are things we can do, that we do not just have to sit and worry.

    (ps is it just me seeing five adverts in your post?)

    • Reply Shannon Giust May 7, 2018 at 12:33 am

      As in an animal is out hunting or a sick individual? I truly hope it’s the first of the two. Cats can have an especially hard time outdoors, its important to keep them safe for sure.
      And yes.. still trying to figure that whole thing out. Sorry for the spammy post.

  12. Reply Kristin May 6, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    I knew that cats went into a feral like state when missing (and often hide really close to home) but didn’t know dogs did as well. Fortunately, I have never lost a pet – but am still incredibly cautious bordering on paranoid when it comes to keeping my guys safe.

    • Reply Shannon Giust May 7, 2018 at 12:29 am

      Yes, dogs can go into survival mode quite quickly as well.
      Animal instincts- got to love them!!

  13. Reply Jana Rade May 6, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    There is a perception everybody seems to have–bad stuff always only happens to the others. And, most likely, because it’s their fault. One thing everybody forgets is that every one of us is “the other” for everybody else.

    Bad things can happen to anybody. Anybody’s dog can get lost.

  14. Reply Cathy Armato May 6, 2018 at 10:19 pm

    Very good tips! I always try to convince people to get their pets microchipped. It’s the most heartbreaking thing when a shelter scans a dog or cat that came in without tage and there is no microchip. A pet will go up for adoption in most parts of the US within just a few days. Collars & tags can easily break off or be removed by a stranger, microchips are permanent.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    • Reply Shannon Giust May 7, 2018 at 12:27 am

      Totally agree! I used to work at a shelter and it still blows my mind at the amount of pets that still don’t have a chip.

  15. Reply Amelia Johnson May 7, 2018 at 3:02 am

    My heart was in my throat when my puppy went missing for 45 minutes…by my side one minute and when I turned around she was gone. The whole neighborhood was looking for her. She had followed a trail to a stream and when she was done, she came trotting back home as though nothing happened. I was so glad her leash didn’t get hung up on anything.

    I have found a number of dogs…some wearing ID and some not…never took them to a shelter though and always found the owner. This is a great topic since it can happen in an instant!

  16. Reply Rachel May 7, 2018 at 4:12 am

    The one and only time my dog ever got lost, I was little and we were on vacation during the 4th of July! Rooney now has a microchip and an engraved collar, just in case. Thanks for sharing this awesome information.

  17. Reply Sweet Purrfections May 9, 2018 at 2:58 am

    This is some wonderful information that I hope I never need to use. The girls did slip out when they were kittens when I’d open the front door, but I’ve worked with them to stay when I come in the front door. My concern is when strangers go in and out the front door. I watch them like a hawk.

    • Reply Shannon Giust May 9, 2018 at 3:21 pm

      It can be so hard kittys. When its in them to be outside it hard!!

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