Fifty years ago, people would have marveled at an implantable device that gets a pet home safe to his or her owners. Microchips offer you a backup if your pet loses her collar, her tags are unreadable, or he slips out of his collar on a walk. These tiny devices, which usually cost less than $100, are easy to implant in your pet. They’ve already helped thousands of pets find their way back home. One study found that a microchip increased the odds of making it home by 20 times for cats, and 2.5 times for dogs. 15% of pet owners lost a pet in the last five years. A microchip can mean the difference between a joyful reunion and always wondering where your four-legged best friend went.
How Microchips Work
Microchips are not GPS units, which means they can’t pinpoint the location of your pet. That technology would need a constant source of power, which isn’t practical. Instead, these chips use RFID technology to provide information on a pet’s owner. If the pet is lost, a veterinarian or animal shelter scans for a chip and the information displays. Your pet will still need to wear her tags and collar since not all shelters scan for microchips.
The Microchipping Process
Microchipping is a lot like getting a vaccination. The microchip itself is about the size of a grain of rice, so your vet can insert it—usually between the shoulder blades—using a long needle. The process is quick and almost painless and doesn’t require anesthesia. Because some dogs are sensitive to needles, many owners opt to have a microchip inserted while the pet is already under anesthesia to be spayed or neutered. There’s no healing time associated with a microchip insertion, and the microchip begins working as soon as it’s implanted.
It’s natural to worry about how inserting an RFID chip might affect your pet. Some pet owners have expressed concerns about privacy. There is no way this chip can track your pet’s movements or invade your family’s privacy. Because the chip is inserted just under the skin, and not into a vein, it also won’t travel within the body. There’s no reason to worry about it getting stuck.
A small number of pets experience irritation at the implantation site, but this usually clears up on its own without a problem. Some pets with allergies may have an allergic reaction to the chip, necessitating its removal, but this outcome is extraordinarily rare. Even so, it’s a good idea to tell your vet if your pet has a history of allergies or allergic reactions. Some pets develop tumors near the microchip. There’s no evidence that the microchip caused these tumors, but if you notice swelling or unusual growths near the implantation site, talk to your vet.
Keeping Your Microchip Up to Date
A microchip is a simple device. It can’t sync with your phone or track your movements, which means that it won’t do you any good at all if you don’t keep your information up to date. Provide a permanent address and a phone number at which you can be reached. Then set a date each year—perhaps your pet’s birthday—to double-check the microchip information to ensure it’s still accurate. Without accurate information, no one can find you if your pet gets lost.
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As you point out, having a microchip isn’t valuable unless the chip is properly registered so that you can be located if your dog is found. Any microchip can be registered for free for life at https://www.found.org, a registry run by the Michelson Found Animals foundation.