Microchipping is a simple way to greatly increase the chances of your pet being reunited with you, should they ever get lost or separated. Most vets will encourage microchipping your pet and especially if you live in a disaster-prone area, or you pet spends a large amount of time outdoors unsupervised, you may want to strongly consider it.
Microchips are tiny transponders, about the size of a grain of rice, that have a unique identification number. The identification number is registered into a national database with your pet’s details and your contact information. Microchipping is permanent, and more reliable than identification tags or tattoos—tags can be removed, while tattoos fade, can be altered and don’t have any centralized databases, while microchips are tamperproof. Microchips are ‘read’ by a microchip reader. Most veterinarians, shelters and humane societies now have universal microchip readers, so they can scan any animal that comes across their path and access their information.
However, having your pet microchipped is only as good as their registration; pet owners need to be diligent about registering their pet correctly, and updating their information should they move or change phone numbers. It is important to note that a microchip is not a GPS; it cannot be used to track a pet if they go missing. Thus why it is important for owners to make sure their contact information is up to date in the microchip database.
Microchipping your pet is a fast, safe and relatively pain-free procedure, hurting your pet no more than a vaccine does. The microchip is inserted into the folds of skin between your pet’s shoulder blades using a large-bore syringe. You pet does not need to be anesthetized for the procedure, although it is often done during another procedure, such as being spayed or neutered. Microchips are made to last for 25 years, so there is no need to ever have it removed or replaced.
As a pet owner, you pet’s identification responsibilities don’t end after your pet is microchipped. If you do have your animal microchipped, you can ask your vet to scan for the microchip at your regular appointments to make sure it’s still functioning properly and in the correct position, as they can migrate a little bit. You should still have you pet wear a collar with identification tags, even if they are microchipped; microchipping is only one part of your pets identification system, and relies on your pet being taken to a shelter or vet to look for a chip. Is someone finds your dog when they’ve gotten loose, they may not know to bring them to a shelter or vet to be scanned, and could just keep your animal or give them away if there are no tags present. Microchipping also helps lessen the strain on shelters and humane societies, by enabling them to reunite a much larger percentage of animals brought into them with their owners, instead of trying to find them new homes.
Microchipping is not a fool-proof way to ensure your pet will be returned to you if they ever get lost, but the odds of a happy reunion are much higher than if they are not microchipped. A study from the American Veterinary Medical Association found that about 22% of lost dogs who enter shelters are reunited with their families, while 53% of microchipped dogs were returned home. Non-microchipped cats were reunited with their families only 2% of the time, while over 38% of microchipped cats were returned home. Those statistics speak to the effectiveness of having your pet microchipped, so it may be something you want to consider for your beloved furry friend.