The heartbreak of a missing dog is a worry pet owners share. It's best to think the unthinkable and do everything we can to provide proper identification for our dogs in the event they are lost.

A good dog collar with an ID tag is the first line of defense. However, a collar can break or be pulled off. In addition to a collar, our dogs should have permanent identification.

For many years tattooing has provided this identification. New technology has led to the computer microchip ID for individual dogs. The microchip is about the size of a long grain of rice encapsulated within a biocompatible material so it can reside safely under the skin for the lifetime of a dog.

The microchip must be implanted under the skin between the shoulders of the dog. The procedure is not painful. It has been compared to vaccinating a dog. Once implanted, a microchip requires no batteries and no further attention. It has a life span of 25 years. The dog's microchip number cannot be lost, altered or intentionally removed. It is registered originally by the puppy breeder. The new owner has the responsibility to register the microchip under its name as soon as he enters in possession of the dog. Changes in dog ownership are easily updated in the registry's database.

To identify a dog with a microchip implant, veterinarians or personnel at humane societies, shelters and some local breed clubs equipped with hand-held scanners simply pass the scanner over the dog's shoulder and the number is displayed on the scanner.

The limitation of the microchip implant concerns the person who finds the lost or stolen dog. The person must be knowledgeable enough to assume that perhaps the dog has a microchip implant and take the dog to a veterinarian or shelter equipped with a scanner.

Microchips do not replace the need for the traditional ID tag. But for positive, unalterable identification of a dog, microchip identification is the answer.

Along with a permanent ID and an ID tag for your dog, protect it by taking care of it. Never allow it to run free which can expose it to the danger of traffic accidents, attacks from other dogs, theft and the threat of abuse. Most communities have leash laws and the penalties can become severe for a dog that is allowed to roam continuously. Neutering or spaying a dog removes a basic motivation for roaming.