Microchipping Your Pet

Do you have a dog or cat in your home?  Have you heard of microchipping?  A microchip is a small, electronic chip enclosed in a glass cylinder that is about the same size as a grain of rice.The microchip itself does not have a battery—it is activated by a scanner that is passed over the area, and the radiowaves put out by the scanner activate the chip. The chip transmits the identification number to the scanner, which displays the number on the screen. The microchip itself is also called a transponder. Once your pet has been microchipped by a veterinarian (important!) you go online to the company’s website and register your information; address, phone, cell phone.

Why ‘chip’ your pet?  It is simple, really.  If you own a pet like a cat or dog, one not usually contained in a crate, cage, or box and, specifically, has the run of your home – you stand a chance of losing them.   Even the best pet parents forget to close the backdoor, have children opening the door and not being aware of where the dog or cat is, leave their pet in the backyard with the gate open – the ways a family pet can get lost are endless.

Microchipping your pet will be one step in assuring when they are found, they will make their way home to you.  All vets and most rescues have scanners and when a lost pet is brought into them, they will run the scanner over the location microchips are implanted and the scanner will pick up the ID#.  Microchips from different companies work on different frequencies; examples of microchip frequencies used in the U.S. include 125 kiloHertz (kHz), 128 kHz, and 134.2 kHz.

You may have heard of situations where a pet was lost, had a microchip and the rescue/animal control/vet didn’t find it.  Because the microchips have a few frequencies, a forward reading scanner will only read 134.2 kHz.  Universal scanners ( more commonly used today) will read backward and forward, so should pick up all frequencies.  Having said that – there are situations where a beloved pet was euthanized, even with a chip, because the scanner didn’t pick it up.  This is less likely to occur with the universal scanners and doesn’t change the real benefit for microchipping your pet.

Information from the AVMA tells of the efficacy of a microchip:  ‘A study of more than 7,700 stray animals at animal shelters showed that dogs without microchips were returned to their owners 21.9% of the time, whereas microchipped dogs were returned to their owners 52.2% of the time. Cats without microchips were reunited with their owners only 1.8% of the time, whereas microchipped cats went back home 38.5% of the time. (Lord et al, JAVMA, July 15, 2009) For microchipped animals that weren’t returned to their owners, most of the time it was due to incorrect owner information (or no owner information) in the microchip registry database – so don’t forget to register and keep your information updated.’  That’s an important note – the chip is only as good as the information in the registry database.  It’s also a good idea to have your vet scan your pet once a year, when they are in for their wellness exams, to ensure the chip is still in place and readable.

A final comment – microchips should never be used as the sole identifier for your pet.  I have a friend that noticed my labs had identification on their collars as we walked past her home and asked if I had them microchipped.  I told her I did and she was surprised I still had those ‘noisy’ tags on their collars.  She had a small dog and didn’t put any ID tags on her.   My dogs have an ID with my name, cell phone and address, as well as their rabies state license tags.  I don’t know about you but in the unthinkable (to me!) situation where they got out of my home and were lost – I want to do whatever I can to improve the chances they will be returned to me, safe and sound.

Think about this for a second – if you see a dog running on the street and stop to try to help – what is easier for you?  To look at their tags and use your cell phone to contact the owner?  Or to try to get the dog into your car (if you are willing to even try) take them to a vet and hope a chip is found?  Make it easy for your pet to be found; get them microchipped, make sure they have  a good collar, with ID tags and their rabies license.   It’s worth the time and money to give yourself some peace of mind.

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