Over 10 million pets are lost in the United States every year, and millions of those end up in the nation’s animal shelters. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of dogs and cats in shelters without ID tags or microchips are reunited with their owners.
What Is a Microchip?
A microchip is a tiny capsule with a radio-frequency identification transponder embedded within that’s injected under the loose skin on the back of a dog or cat’s neck. Again, this sounds much more invasive than it really is. The capsule is about the size of a grain of rice, and the entire ordeal results in roughly the same amount of discomfort as a vaccination. To be clear — it’s not GPS. It does not require battery power or transit signals. It simply sits inside your pet and holds identification information.
Up to 15% of Pets are likely to be lost at some point, of those 80% are found. A large portion of those are due to having an ID tag or microchip
How is a microchip implanted into an animal? Will it hurt? Does it require anesthesia or surgery?
A microchip is injected under the skin using a hypodermic needle that is typically slightly larger than those for a routine injection. It is no more painful than a typical injection. No anesthesia or surgery is require and a microchip can be implanted during a routine veterinary office visit. If your pet is already under anesthesia for a procedure the microchip can often be implanted while they’re still under anesthesia.
How does a microchip help reunite a lost animal with its owner?
When an animal is found and taken to a shelter or veterinary clinic, one of the first things they do is scan the animal for a microchip. If they find a microchip, and if the microchip registry has accurate information, they can quickly find the animal’s owner.
Will a microchip really make it more likely for me to get my pet back if it is lost?
Without a doubt! It has been shown by studying animal shelters across 23 states that microchipped animals are substantially more likely to be reunited with their owners. In that study, microchipped stray dogs were returned to their owners at more than double the overall rate for all stray dogs (both microchipped and not microchipped). For stray cats, the difference in return rates was even more dramatic.
For microchipped animals that weren’t returned to their owners, the most common reason was an incorrect or disconnected owner telephone number in the microchip registry database. This highlights how important it is to register your pet’s microchip, and keep your contact information up to date!
What are some of the problems associated with microchips? How common are they?
The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) maintains a database of adverse reactions to microchips. Since the database was started in 1996, over 4 million animals have been microchipped and only 391 adverse reactions have been reported. Of these reactions, migration of the microchip from its original implantation site is the most common problem reported. Other problems, such as failure of the microchip, hair loss, infection, swelling, and tumor formation, were reported in much lower numbers.
Less than 1 in 10,000 microchips fail and become unreadable making a microchip a highly reliable form of pet ID
I want to get my animal(s) microchipped. Where do I go?
To your veterinarian, Birmingham Animal Hospital + Resort has both methods to microchip and read lost animal microchips. However, most veterinary clinics keep microchips on hand; so, it is likely that your pet can be implanted with a microchip the same day as your appointment with your usual veternarian. Sometimes local shelters or businesses will host a microchipping event, too.
What should I do to “maintain” my pet’s microchip?
Once your pet is microchipped, there are only three things you need to do: 1) make sure the microchip is registered; 2) ask your veterinarian to scan your pet’s microchip at least once per year to make sure the microchip is still functioning and can be detected; and 3) keep your registration information up-to-date.
In conclusion, microchips are a permanent ID solution and essential tool recommended by most vets and shelters. They are safe, relatively painless, affordable and can be implanted quickly by a vet or other pet professional. By microchipping your dog or cat and keeping your contact information in the microchip database up to date, you can increase the chances that you will be reunited with your furry friend should they ever get lost.