Having a pet run away is an experience that many of us have gone through at least once in our lives. For children it can be especially traumatic, and is a difficult situation to deal with. As pets become members of the family, keeping them safe is a priority, especially during seasons where they will be spending more time outdoors! Microchipping can reunite you with your pet–and even save their life!
What is microchipping?
A Microchip ID is a tiny transmitter the size of a grain of rice. Microchipping, (although it may sounds like a complicated procedure), actually only takes a few seconds to do. It is commonly believed that the process requires surgery, but this is not the case. In fact, the microchip is so small that a needle between the shoulder blades does the trick to implant it. Often times, the owners will be allowed to be in the room while their pet receives the needle, just like any other injection! On the chip is an identification code that is unique to your pet, which is then registered in a central registry. This is the ONLY information that will be on the chip! If the pet needs to be identified, the chip is scanned, the registry is contacted, your contact info is matched, and then you are notified!
It should be stated here that a microchip does NOT work like a GPS system, and cannot help to locate your pet in any way! It only holds the identification number which can be scanned when the animal is found.
What are some situations where microchipping my pet would be useful?
When considering microchipping your pet, you should be aware of some common situations where the chip could mean life or death. The most common is a lost pet. If your pet runs away and is recovered by an animal shelter or taken to a vet clinic, then the chip can be scanned and identified as yours. The clinic will be able to contact the registry and notify you, reuniting your pet with your family. Another situation is natural disaster. Sometimes, as it has been with hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis in previous years, pets become separated from their owners. In some cases, Animal Control will evacuate the pets all into one area. If your animal does not have any distinctive markings, or does not photograph well due to their shaken up state, then you may never be able to locate it. Finally, if a pet becomes injured while roaming your neighbourhood, and a good Samaritan finds it and brings it to a vet hospital, they will need a way of identifying that it belongs to you. The Samaritan may not be able to afford whatever costs arise, and the future of your pet will forever be unknown to you.
Does microchipping really reunite owners with their pets?
YES! A study retrieved from the American Veterinary Medical Association conducted by Linda K. Lord et al and published on July 15, 2009 found that of 7,700 stray animals, non-microchipped dogs were returned 21.9% of the time, versus 52.2% of the time for microchipped dogs. For cats, the results are even more astonishing, with 1.8% for non-microchipped pets, and a whopping 38.5% for microchipped!
What are the potential problems associated with microchips?
As with all medical procedures and injections, there is always a risk. The British Small Animal Veterinary Association created a database in 1996 which tracked all of the reported adverse reactions associated with microchip implantation. This was a summary of reported incidences of adverse reactions in the United Kingdom from the years 1996-2009. Seeing as the United Kingdom database reports more than 3.7 million registered, micro-chipped pets, the numbers are very low for problems at 4- 75 per year. Migration or movement of the micro-chip from the standard location of mid shoulder blade is the most common problem, followed by lost microchips, and then infection or swelling.
How can I have my pet microchipped?
As it is a simple procedure, merely contacting your veterinarian and booking an appointment is all you have to do. Because the needle is larger, some owners will ask to have the chip implanted during their pet’s neuter or spay surgery while they are still under anesthetic. Often times, there will be residual paperwork to be filled out after the chip has been implanted. This paperwork is crucial, for if it is not filled out and mailed to the registry or completed online, then the chip will never be registered. Not only does this leave your pet unidentified, but it could end in a dispute if somebody else finds the pet and decides to register the chip under their name!
How do I maintain the chip?
All you have to do is make sure your contact information stays up-to-date and that’s it! Microchipping is a one-time procedure that rarely results in an adverse reaction, but often reunites beloved pets with their owners!
AVMA. (2013, July 30). Microchipping of animals. Retrieved from American Medical Veterinary Association website: https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Reference/Pages/Microchipping-of-Animals-Backgrounder.aspx
Brooks, W. C. (2011, July 5). Microchipping could save your pet’s life. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=3264
Lord, L. K., Ingwersen, W., Gray, J. L., & Wintz, D. J. (2009). Characterization of animals with microchips entering animal shelters. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 235(02), 160-167. Retrieved from http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.235.2.160
May, K., & Wohlferth-Bethke, P. (2013, July 30). Microchipping of animals faq. Retrieved from American Medical Veterinary Association website: https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/FAQs/Pages/Microchipping-of-animals-FAQ.aspx
Content Contributor: Dr. Sandy Drury