Exactly what is a microchip?
A microchip is a tiny computer chip–about the size of a grain of rice–that your vet can implant between your pet’s shoulder blades. Each microchip has a unique number, which is entered in an international database. Veterinary hospitals, animal shelters and humane societies have microchip readers, scanners that can quickly be run over the dog’s shoulder blades, allowing the scanner to read your dog’s individual microchip number. The number allows the person scanning your dog to know which database your pet is registered with. They can then call a toll-free number, and the database will match your pet’s number with your name and phone number so you can be contacted.
Is it truly a permanent method of identification?
Yes, one microchip should last for your pet’s lifetime, and once you have sent in the initial registration, your only future responsibility is keeping the registry informed of any changes in your contact numbers. Although a properly implanted chip cannot be lost or damaged, very rarely a microchip will migrate. It is a good idea to have your veterinarian scan your dog each year when they go for their annual exam, to make sure that the chip is still in the correct location.
You must register your dog for a trace to be in place should the dog be lost. Also changes of address and phone numbers will be needed after a move so that that you can be located. This can be especially important since it takes time for a relocated dog to learn where “home” is.
Upon change of ownership, the dog must be registered to the new owner.
Chips can migrate though usually they do not move far. Nevertheless a scan should include distant areas if it appears a lost animal has not been chipped.
Will it hurt your pet?
No, the procedure is simple and fairly painless, not requiring any anesthesia. It is much like getting a vaccination and most animals show absolutely no reaction at all.
A few chips have been reported to have been found enclosed in a tumor that has formed around them. Any lump should be investigated but be mindful of this alert if a tumor is found anywhere near the area where you dog had a chip implanted.
You may want to discuss with your veterinarian the advisability of giving vaccines in a different area from where the ID chip was implanted.
Worried about cost?
At the time of this writing, the average cost to have a microchip implanted falls between $25 and $50. Some veterinarians discount this rate if it is being done at the same time as the pet is being spayed, or put under anesthesia for something routine such as dental work. Humane societies in some areas also offer microchip clinics from time to time, much like a rabies clinic, where the procedure may be offered for as little as $10 or $15.
There may also be a small one-time fee to register your information with the database, but in the long run, the microchip process is still much less expensive than all the things you would need to do if your pet was lost without any identification.
Are there any downsides?
The only downside to a microchip is that this form of identification will not work unless your pet is taken to someone who has a scanner. Animal shelters and veterinarians are offered the microchip readers for free, or for a very small fee, so 99% of them have readers available. If your pet is picked up by an individual who is not familiar with microchips (and thus does not take your pet in to be scanned) then of course your dog cannot be identified through their chip. This is why it is still recommended that all dogs wear collars with ID tags. Your microchip should also come with a tag for your dog’s collar, which has a toll-free number listed. If someone should find your dog and call that number, they can call this number and give the identifying number on the tag.
Should your pet become lost, be sure to notify your microchip provider. Some will send out an e-mail alert to animal shelters, veterinary clinics and other members of their network that are within a 25 mile radius of where your pet was lost (this is sent out immediately when you call them to tell them the pet is lost). They may also have available a Lost Pet Poster service and other benefits.
The advantages to a microchip far outweigh any inconvenience or minor expense. To find out more, give your veterinarian’s office a call today.
Source: Adapted from the American Animal Hospital Association