Every domestic pet should be microchipped.
Yes, we said it! Every single one. There are simply too many benefits (and too few drawbacks) of microchipping to ignore. Deciding to microchip your dog or cat isn’t just a responsible decision, it can actually save her life! Still, a lot of pet owners still aren’t clear on the ins and outs of the microchip process. Let’s break it down.
What is a Microchip?
A pet microchip is a tiny, non-reactive computer chip. Microchips for pets are about the size of a grain of rice, and each is programmed with a unique identification number. They’re essentially little computerized identification cards that are implanted just under your pet’s skin.
Does a Microchip “Track” My Pet’s Location?
Contrary to popular belief, microchips do not track your pet. They don’t use GPS technology, and they don’t “transmit” a constant signal. Microchips actually utilize RFID technology; when a scanner is passed over the chip, an RFID signal is transmitted to the scanner that relays the unique ID number “stored” on the chip. A vet then searches for that ID number in the national microchip database where it should be connected to your contact information, your pet’s description, and any medical info.
Because a microchip isn’t constantly transmitting, it doesn’t need batteries or charging, and it never has to be replaced. As long as the microchip doesn’t come out somehow (which is rare), your pet should only need an implant once in her life. That said, it’s a good idea to have your vet “check the chip” once annually during a regular exam to ensure it’s still working the way it’s intended. It’s also imperative that you keep your contact information updated within the microchip database.
So, What Does a Microchip Do?
Good question. It doesn’t really do anything…until it’s scanned by a vet. If your pet becomes lost or injured, whomever finds her will hopefully take her to a veterinarian, shelter, or other pet facility to be scanned. (Almost every veterinarian has a microchip scanner, as do many shelters, animal controls, and other organizations.) If your pet is chipped, the vet should be able to find your contact information in the system then reach out to tell you your pet has been found.
Think it’s a long shot? Think again! Over 58% of microchipped dogs who enter shelters are reunited with their families. Nearly 38% of microchipped cats in the same situation were reunified, too! Those percentages are hundreds (and in the case of cats, thousands) of times greater than for animals without chips. It’s not difficult to find stories of microchipped pets being reunited with their families many, many years after being lost.
How Does Microchip Implantation Work?
Since microchips are so small, vets and/or veterinary technicians can implant them with a simple, sterile device that resembles a syringe. Since no large equipment is involved, in home veterinarians can microchip pets at home, too. Chips are usually implanted just under the skin in between a pet’s shoulder blades. They rarely migrate from the area they are implanted.
The implantation itself doesn’t hurt much at all – about the same as a regular vaccination shot – and your pet should have no lasting effects. In very rare cases, the implantation site can become itchy or infected, but proper care can usually all but eliminate this risk. The cost of microchipping your pet is nominal, usually ranging from $50-$75 in addition to the cost of a veterinary exam.
Who Needs a Microchip?
Every pet should have a microchip! Even if your pet regularly wears a collar with ID tags (which she should!), a microchip is the only form of pet identification that is completely permanent. Both dogs AND cats should be microchipped, although a lot of indoor cat owners assume there’s no need. In fact, pets who aren’t frequently outdoors are particularly vulnerable to being lost, so they should absolutely be chipped.
Ready for a chip? Reach out to your vet today to schedule an appointment for chipping…it will be a quick one! If you have a well-check or vaccination appointment already on the books, having a microchip implanted can usually be added to the same appointment.