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Microchipping your pet - Yorkshire Terrier lying on grass

Microchips are an excellent way to facilitate your pet's safe return if they escape or get lost. Pets with microchips can be scanned at animal shelters and vet clinics, where the unique identification code that comes up is used to assist in returning the pet to its family. Microchip technology is easily accessible, and all household animals should have a chip implanted. Read on to learn more about:

  • How a microchip works
  • Why you should microchip your pet
  • The difference between microchipping certain species
  • The after-effects of microchips once the procedure is complete

Microchips are tiny transponders the size of a grain of rice implanted in your pet's skin. If your pet is lost or missing, this mini chip can be read by a special universal scanner that will help figure out your pet's identification and lead you to a happy reunion. There are also many applications on IOS or Android for pet owners that can help with missing pets.

Emergencies happen. A dog digs under a backyard fence or jumps out of a car at a rest stop. A cat might flee during a flood or fire. Identification tags on collars may occasionally fall off during their adventures, decreasing their chances of returning home. For most pet owners, the electronic chip provides another layer of insurance to maximize the chance of their fur baby making it back home.

How does microchipping work?

What is microchip technology and how does it help find lost pets?

Veterinarians and some animal shelters implant microchips in pets for a small fee. Once the microchip is implanted in your pet, you must register it with a microchip company and finish the paperwork provided with the device. After you send this information to the registry, the microchip company will provide your contact information to someone calling to identify your pet’s unique chip number.

Some companies charge a one-time registration fee, while others charge an annual fee. When microchipping a pet, the average cost is only about $45-$50 USD and includes the physical chip, vet procedure, and registration fees. With the microchip, you should receive identification tags for your pet's collar with the chip and registry phone numbers.

How does it work?

A microchip is implanted between the shoulder blades just beneath the skin using a large bore needle.  Even though the needle is large, the procedure is quick so anesthesia is not necessary. If your animal is found and taken to a vet clinic or shelter, they will use a handheld microchip scanner to read the chip and display the identification number that will ID your pet so you can be contacted and reunited with your furry friend.

A microchip is not a GPS-tracking device, but it is still beneficial. Some microchip registration databases will allow you to store health information in addition to your contact details. When someone brings your lost pet to an animal shelter or vet clinic, they’ll scan it and call the registry to get your name and phone number. Microchips usually last around 25 years.

Why should I microchip my pet?

Even though every pet should wear a collar with visible identification, pets with a microchip implant have extra protection if they’re ever lost or escape. A microchip implanted under the skin is permanent and increases your chance of reuniting with your beloved pets. This tiny piece of technology is entirely safe for your pet, and the procedure takes less than a few minutes with no anesthesia required.

Microchips may migrate inside the body with age. If animal shelters and veterinary offices don’t locate a chip when they scan the usual place between the shoulder blades, they search up and down the front legs and everywhere else just in case a chip has migrated. The benefits of microchipping your pet outweigh any risks regarding microchipping, and it is the most efficient way to increase your chances of having your lost pet returned.

Microchips in different species

Almost any animal can have a microchip implant. This technology is becoming extremely common for cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, horses, and other livestock. Vets can even insert a microchip in ferrets, tortoises, and snakes. The only difference between microchipping specific species is the location of the implant. Dogs, cats, and ferret microchips go under the skin between the shoulder blades.

In contrast, veterinarians put the microchip in the nuchal ligament of a horse's neck. The neck is the usual spot for snakes as well. Parrots receive the microchip in the chest muscles, and rabbits get microchipped in the loose skin of the neck. Tortoises get the microchip in the hind leg. The most popular animals who receive this procedure are cats and dogs, but animal lovers from every walk of life can put their minds at ease and get microchip implants for even the most exotic of pets. If a veterinarian inspects a horse for sale, the microchip can be used to prove the horse’s identity.  Microchipping is the most cost-effective way to give all your pets permanent identification.

So my pet has a microchip... now what?

Microchips themselves require no physical maintenance. You should be good to go if the chip is registered and your contact information is always up to date with the microchip registration company. A little bit of bleeding immediately after the implantation procedure is common, but the spot heals quickly. Complications are very rare, but if you notice any abnormalities at the place of the implant such as drainage (oozing) or swelling, then you should contact a veterinarian. Make sure to have  your pet's microchip scanned at their regular check-up exam to ensure it is still in place and working as it should.

As technology advances and becomes more accessible, why not take advantage of the many types of microchips available for your pet, like the smaller Buddy ID MiniChip that comes with a lifetime warranty. Do not depend on microchipping as a sole pet identification strategy, however. It’s just as important to have a visible form of identification on your pet that doesn’t require a special scanner to read. Your pet’s chip is a backup intended for use in the worst case scenario. If you have more questions about how to microchip your pet, book an online virtual care appointment with Vetster today to keep your pet's safety your number one priority.

FAQ - Should I microchip my pet?

Should indoor pets get microchipped?

Yes, indoor pets can still escape, so, as a precaution, they should have a microchip. Microchips are an excellent backup form of pet identification, but they are not a replacement for visible identification. Always have a collar and tag on your pet.

Is microchip implantation painful for my pet?

The needle used to insert the microchip is larger than those used for typical vaccinations and injections, but most pets are not bothered by the experience. Even if your pet is more sensitive, the procedure is quick, and no anesthesia is necessary. That being said, it is common practice to complete microchip implantation at the same time as spay or neuter surgery while your animal is already under anesthesia. If you are concerned about pain and microchipping, consider including it during other routine procedures where anesthesia is already required.

What do I do about my microchip registration when I move?

If you and your furry family member move to a new home, contact the chip company and update your contact information. There may be a small fee, but if you don’t keep your address and phone number up to date with the chip registry, anyone calling the registry after scanning your pet won’t be able to reach you.

What if I adopt a pet that is already microchipped?

Fortunately, this is not an issue. As a new pet parent, all you have to do is update the registry with your contact information. Shelters scan all new animals upon arrival, and if a chip is found, they’ll use it to try to contact the owners. There’s usually a waiting period while efforts are made to get the pet back home before making the animal available for adoption. By the time you’re adopting the new pet, the shelter will be able to provide you with the chip number and which registry to call to enter your contact information.

Can a microchip get lost inside my pet?

The microchip can not get lost inside your pet's body because it is only skin deep. Manufacturers create microchips to stay where they’re inserted, but occasionally they migrate while still staying just under the skin. For example, a chip on the back of a pet's neck might move down one of the front legs. Even if that happens, it remains just below the skin. It will not enter a body cavity or get lost inside your furry friend.

Are there different types of chips?

Pet microchips can use different frequencies and scanners, but most companies today produce universal scanners and chips. If you do not know what type of chip is in your pet, ask a vet, shelter, or an animal control officer to help you.