When it comes to your pets, they’re a big part of your family, which means you always want to make sure they’re safe and sound. As a pet parent, there’s very little more terrifying than discovering your beloved furry family member is missing. If you lose your dog or cat, it can kick your fears and worries into overdrive, wondering where they are, if they’re okay, and if you’ll ever see them again. Luckily, there’s a way to make reuniting with your companion more likely — microchipping your pet.
What Exactly Is Microchipping?
If you get a new dog or cat, one of the first things you’ll likely hear is, “Did you get them chipped?” Microchipping your pet has become a fairly common practice, making it easier to reunite lost or stolen animals with their owners. Basically, the animal shelter or veterinary clinic implants a tiny electronic chip encased in a glass tube beneath your pet’s skin. If your pet goes missing and someone finds them, a scanner can detect the chip, assisting in reuniting you with your pal as soon as possible.
How Do Microchips Get Implanted?
Typically, someone trained to implant microchips (usually at an animal shelter or vet clinic) injects the microchip under your pet’s skin between the shoulder blades using a hypodermic needle. Although a vet should do the procedure, it is not mandated. While your pet does not need to have any anesthesia for the injection, many places will implant the microchip during another procedure. For example, if you’re having your dog neutered or spayed, and they are already under anesthesia, it’s easy to implant the microchip at the same time.
How Do People Use Microchips to Find Lost Pets?
When you microchip your pet, the chip has an identification number that correlates to the information you submit into a database. If someone finds your pet, they can bring your dog or cat to a local shelter or vet office to get scanned. When the person scans your pet, the scanner gives off a radio wave that detects, activates, and reads the chip. Then the person can input the identification number into the microchip registry to find your contact information.
The International Standards Organization (ISO) has approved a global standard for microchips, so no matter where your pet is, the scanner can read the chip. However, if your pet has a non-ISO chip, some ISO scanners may not detect the chip unless it is a “forward-and-backward-reading” or universal scanner. Currently, the frequencies for microchips used in the United States are 125 kHz, 128 kHz, and 134.2 kHz, the latter of which is the ISO standard.
Of course, the chip only works if you ensure you keep the contact information in the database updated. Plus, there are various registry services out there, like the Free Pet Microchip Registry and AKC Reunite, that participate in the American Animal Hospital Association’s (AAHA) Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool and offer different benefits, such as lost pet alerts and more.
Maintaining a Microchip
Aside from ensuring you enter your contact information into the registry, there isn’t much you need to do to maintain your pet’s chip. However, it’s wise to have it checked regularly. You can do this easily at your pet’s regular veterinary well visits by asking your vet to scan your pal to ensure they can detect the chip. If you ever move or change your contact information, make sure you update the registry database’s info.
How Do You Tell If Your Adopted Dog Has a Chip?
If you adopt a dog, you can simply ask the shelter or your vet to scan your new pup to see if there’s a chip present. Most shelters have made it standard practice to chip pets before they adopt them out to new families. A microchip will also show up on an X-ray, although you shouldn’t get an X-ray for your pup simply to determine if your dog has a chip. When you adopt a new dog, if they have a chip, you should also get the registry information so you can update the database with your contact information.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Microchips for Pets?
Overall, getting your pet chipped has a ton of benefits with very few disadvantages. Here’s a quick look at the pros and cons of microchipping your pet.
Pros of Microchips
AKC Reunite mentions that microchipped pets are almost “20 times more likely to be reunited with their owners.” This reason alone makes microchips worth it. Plus, chips are relatively inexpensive, only costing about $40 or $50, and virtually painless -- about the same as getting a regular vaccination or having some bloodwork done. The microchip registry databases are open 24/7, so if someone finds your pet and brings them somewhere to scan for a chip, they can find your contact info anytime, day or night.
Cons of Microchips
There are very few cons regarding microchips, and the risks that exist are very rare. For example, there can be complications at the injection site or with the implantation itself. However, this is very unlikely, especially if you have a vet implant the microchip. There have also been some studies that show a possible link between an increased risk of cancer in animals with microchips. However, the number of animals with developed tumors is so extremely few compared to the millions of chipped pets that the benefits still outweigh the risks.
It’s also worth noting, although not necessarily cons, there are a few things that microchips don’t do. Microchips are not GPS devices and won’t work as a tracking device to help you locate your lost pet. If you want to know your pet’s location, you can get a specific GPS device, like Whistle, that links to a dog-friendly app so you can keep tabs on your pal.
Also, microchips don’t take the place of other factors, like rabies tags (you still need to have your pet vaccinated). Finally, it’s still wise to get a regular ID tag for your pet’s collar as some people may not know to check for a chip if they find your pet.
Of course, there are many things you can do to help find a lost dog or cat, such as posting on social media, placing a small bowl of food out for them, or always keeping your dog on a leash on outings. However, getting your pet chipped provides an extra layer of hope for reuniting with your missing companion. Especially in situations where your pet might lose their collar when they get lost, thereby losing their rabies and ID tags as well.
All in all, microchips come with a lot of positives when it comes to finding a lost pet, so it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons and decide what’s best for you and your furry friend. For more insight into all things pet-related, make sure to check out the rest of our blog. We’re always adding helpful content and fun tips so you can develop your skills as a pet parent and help keep your pets happy, safe, and home with you, where they belong.