“What is a microchip?”
A microchip is a tiny glass vial that contains a electronic chip. When scanned, the microchip emits a unique number to the scanner. Veterinary clinics and shelters routinely scan lost pets for microchips. Pets who have microchips have a better chance of being quickly identified if they are lost or stolen.
“How is a microchip implanted?”
The microchip is loaded into a needle. It is quickly inserted under the loose skin in between the pet’s shoulders, and the microchip is inserted. I have witnessed implantation multiple times and the discomfort appears to be very brief. The initial pinch of the needle and the implantation only last a second.
“Is it expensive?”
A microchip typically costs less than $50. Many shelters and breeders microchip dogs before they are placed in homes.
“How does a microchip work?”
- Registration: When you bring home a pet that already has a microchip, the shelter or breeder will provide you with instructions of how to enroll your pet with a registry. If you have your pet microchipped at your veterinary clinic, you will be given information on how to enroll. The next step is for you to set up your account with your registry program, and input the information you wish to show up when your pet’s microchip is scanned. Don’t delay: this is a simple but critical step.
- Scanning: When your pet is lost and brought to a shelter or veterinary clinic, staff can quickly scan and identify your pet. How quickly? My veterinary clinic was kind enough to scan Miles’ microchip on camera to demonstrate:
Pet Recovery Services
Miles came from his breeder with automatic enrollment to AKC Reunite, the leading pet ID and recovery service in North America. If your pet didn’t come into your life already with a microchip and you reside in North America, you can enroll with this service for a one-time fee of under $20. Some countries have only one registry, while others have many. When looking for a pet ID/Recovery service, the ideal service:
- Boasts high numbers or registration and recovery
- Offers a one-time lifetime enrollment fee that includes unlimited online changes of your information
- Not-for-profit is a plus
- Donates to pet-related disaster relief in your country is also a plus
Miles is an outdoorsy dog, an avid hiker, competes in dog agility, travels all over with me, and has about as varied and active a life as a dog can have. In Miles’ lifetime, he has also had four surgeries. Once a year, I have my veterinary clinic scan Miles to make sure his microchip is easily readable. A lot has happened in Miles’ life, but it comforts me to know that his microchip remains the same.
When Magnus the Boxer went missing from his backyard in Missouri without a trace, his owner Marie suspected he’d been stolen. She was devastated and very worried, especially because Magnus is diabetic. Six months later, a rescue organization out of town contacted Marie. Magnus had been surrendered to the shelter. The very same day Magnus ended up at a shelter, Marie was able to bring him home. While runaway pets often have quick tales of being reunited by means of a microchip; just because a dog is stolen doesn’t mean a microchip won’t come to their rescue.
Peace of Mind
An emergency can be a natural disaster*, or it can be someone forgetting to secure a back gate. A collar and tag are an excellent backup, but if your pet is found without a collar and tag, a microchip is invaluable. If you lead a busy life or travel a lot as I do, a microchip is a very low-cost way to ensure that even if your pet loses his collar/tags, he can be immediately identified as having a loving home when he is brought to a shelter or veterinary clinic. A study by Linda Lord DVM of Ohio State University found that microchipped pets were 20x more likely to be reunited with their owners.
- Set your phone or calendar twice a year to remind you to go over your pet’s microchip’s registered information.
- Have your veterinarian scan your pet once a year to ensure that their microchip is functioning normally.
- If you are bringing a new pet home, make sure to transfer or enroll his or her microchip right away.
- Enroll with a quality service (see above).
- Back-up your pet’s microchip with a collar and/or engraved tag that show your contact information and indicate that your pet is microchipped. Not only will a visible collar/tag make it easier for people to contact you, mention of a microchip sends a message to potential thieves.
Let’s hope you never need to worry about your pet’s microchip beyond keeping your information current, and having your veterinarian scan your pet’s micochip now and then.
*If you’d like to help pets affected by natural disasters, a great option is to donate to AKC Pet Disaster Relief.