8 Common Questions About Pet Microchips

Losing a pet is a nightmare scenario for pet owners. Every year, 10 million pets become lost, according to the American Humane Society. But what if you could turn the odds in your favor and help your pet return home? Microchips are a simple, effective way to identify your pet in the possibility it does get away from home. Surprisingly, many pet owners are unaware of the benefits of microchipping their dogs and cats.

According to a study of nearly 8,000 animals at shelters, dogs with microchips were returned to their owners at more than a 52.2 percent rate, compared to just 21.9 percent for dogs without them. The numbers are starker for cats. Felines without microchips were reunited with owners just 1.8 percent of the time, where cats with chips came home at a 38.5 percent rate.

 

Veterinarian checking microchip of cat in vet clinic

 

How do pet microchips work?

Pet microchips are radio-frequency identification transponders that contain a unique ID code for your pet. When the chip is scanned by a shelter or veterinarian, the ID number is transmitted for databases to receive. Microchip companies have begun providing universal scanners to vets and shelters to aid in the ability to identify lost pets.

What does a microchip look like?

The chips are smaller than you might imagine – usually around the size of a grain of rice. They are encased in a glass cylinder before being placed inside of your pet. There are no batteries or any other moving parts.

Where are microchips placed in dogs?

Microchips are placed just under the skin, usually between the shoulder blades with a long needle. There is no anesthesia required and most veterinary providers offer the service for a small fee during routine checkups. Your pet’s tissue bonds to the chip after 24 hours, which generally means it will not move around in their body.

Are there side effects associated with microchips in dogs?

After the procedure, there is little to be concerned with regarding the microchip. Dog side effects can include hair loss or abscesses, though those ailments are rare. Some owners have also reported slight oozing from the incision point, but that should stop shortly after the procedure. If there are any issues with the microchip process, contact your vet for assistance. Some pet owners have reported cases where the microchip has migrated, but the chip should still work, as they last for 25 years.

What does microchipping a dog do?

Once properly registered with all your contact information to a national pet recovery database like AKC Reunite or the National Animal Identification Center, the chip will broadcast your pet’s location to a variety of vets and shelters in the area. They will now have the information to be able to contact you and let you know your dog or cat has been found.

Are there privacy concerns?

The microchip is not a tracking device and will not keep tabs on your pet (and, by extension, you). If your pet gets lost, it will not serve as a GPS system to help you find it. The information you provide to the microchip registry only will be used to contact you if your pet is lost. There are safeguards in place at the registry to prevent anyone else from accessing your contact information.
What about cats?

The microchipping procedure works well for cats, and people have also done the same with birds and other small animals. For cats, microchip side effects are minimal, with infection occurring as a rare problem. The microchip is usually placed between the cat’s shoulder blades.

What else does a pet owner need to know?

The chip should not replace the traditional collar and tags but work as a backup in case your pet’s tags are damaged or lost while it is away from home. It is important to keep your dog’s microchip updated at all times. If you move, you will need to put your new address into the system. If you adopt a pet that already has a microchip installed, you will need to update the information from the previous owner to yours.

Remember that microchipping should be done only by a trained professional – doing it at home could lead to serious injury to your pet. You may still have more questions like, “How does a dog chip work if you live in a rural area?” or “Is microchipping worth it?” We’d be happy to discuss any other questions you have about microchipping your pet in person.