You hear a lot these days about having your pet microchipped. Most vets recommend it, especially if you have an outdoor cat or a dog who is prone to fence-jumping. Here are several facts about them:
1. There is a tool from the American Animal Hospital Association that searches the databases of several participating microchip manufacturers to find owner information. The site is www.petmicrochiplookup.org. This created a central place to input the microchip number and search for a found pet’s owner.
2. Microchips can’t fall off, like a collar can. They have been known to occasionally move around under a pet’s skin, but will remain intact. A full scan of the pet should find the microchip number even if it’s moved.
3. Having a microchip implanted is no more painful than a normal injection. The needle is a little larger than injection needles in order for the microchip to pass through it, but the procedure does not require sedation. It only takes a few seconds, so if your pet is uncomfortable, at least it’s over quickly.
4. There are different types of microchips that work on different frequencies. Most shelters and veterinarian’s offices now have scanners that can read all of them to ensure that if a microchip is present, it will be found. Found pets are automatically checked for microchips when they are brought in to one of these facilities.
5. While tattoos can be used for identification purposes, the practice has been eclipsed by microchipping. Someone who finds a dog won’t usually check for a tattoo, and they can fade or be covered by hair if it is not kept trimmed. Although owners can register their pet’s tattoo, there is no centralized database for the information.
6. If you are having a surgical procedure done on your pet, such as a neuter, a microchip can be placed without your pet ever knowing about it!
7. A 2009 study showed that dogs who have microchips are returned to their owners almost twice as often as those who don’t, and cats who have them are returned nineteen times as often as cats who don’t. (Yes, nineteen times as often.) Most of the time, pets who had microchips but were not returned did not have their current information registered. That means that owners either didn’t initially register when they had the microchip placed, or didn’t update their information when it changed.
8. Microchips do not replace identification or rabies tags. Vaccine information is not transmitted by the microchip.
9. The current technology does not track your pet. Microchips use Radio Frequency ID technology. When a scanner is passed over the microchip, radiowaves send back a number to the scanner. The person that has found the number then enters it into the database to find the owner’s information.
10. Side effects of microchip placement are rarely reported. The British Small Animal Veterinary Association keeps track of reports of problems related to microchips. Since 1996, There have only been 391 adverse reactions reported, out of over 4 million microchip placements. The microchip moving from its original site was the problem reported most often. More severe side effects, including tumors, were reported, but only in a handful of cases.
There is a minimal annual fee to be registered with the manufacturer’s database which varies by company. Considering the much higher rate of return of pets, the small cost is easily justified. The benefits of having your pet microchipped far outweigh the small chance of side effect. If you have any questions or concerns about having a microchip placed, be sure to talk to your veterinarian. They are the experts!