gps units for pets

Terrier dog with GPS collar
Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Mar 31 2014

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of microchips for pets.

Microchips are a type of permanent identification for your pet, should they find themselves separated from you. About the size of a grain of rice, microchips are injected through a needle to the subcutaneous area under your pet’s skin.

A unique number is associated with the chip, and this number is linked with your personal information in the microchip manufacturer’s database. If your pet is found without you, the shelter or veterinarian will scan her for a chip, find out that you’re the owner, and presto – you’re reunited with your best friend!

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Tools for tracking pets

A very common question I get regarding microchips is about their ability to track a missing animal. Unfortunately, implanted microchips cannot track a missing pet (yet). But there are a growing number of options for tracking missing pets through small GPS transmitters that are fitted on a collar.

Some units transmit your pet’s location to a handset receiver, while others send the information to your smartphone or browser. This is a relatively new technology, and while there certainly are kinks, I think this is a great idea for our pets – especially those that are known escape artists.

Things to consider when choosing a tracking tool

The glaring downside is that the unit is on their collar; if they slip out of their collar, the unit is useless. Of course, you’ll be able to find the collar, but your goal was to find your pet!

Another important factor to consider is the strangulation risk that exists for cats in collars. Cats are notorious for getting themselves into sticky situations, as sometimes their collars get hung up on tree branches or fences. Having a break-away collar can be a lifesaver, but it also defeats the purpose of having a tracking unit on your pet. As the technology advances, the units will likely become smaller, and a cat harness may be able to accommodate them.

Another thing to consider is the battery life of the unit. Most will need regular charging, with lifespans varying from about a week to as long as a month. Pricing also varies; in addition to the cost of the unit, some companies charge a monthly or annual subscription fee.

The benefits of GPS units for pets

Limitations aside, GPS units have some pretty cool perks. With some units, you can set up geofences, or boundaries, for your pet. If your pet breaches one of the boundaries, you’ll get a text message to alert you to your escapee.

When your pet is lost, every minute can feel like hours until you know your pet is safe. Imagine how much peace of mind you will have if you can simply access your lost pet’s location through your smartphone! Of course, GPS collars are not a substitute for microchipping because of the potential for lost collars.

Microchip technology may advance to include GPS tracking, but until that day, it’s best to cover your bases and have both – especially for those sneaky dogs and cats who love to roam.

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