Understanding Dog and Cat Mircochipping
Pets are not just furry friends we keep in our homes— they’re loved and cherished members of our family. We try our best to give them a great life, and in exchange they give us endless love, affection, and companionship. So nothing causes quite a pit in your stomach like the thought of your pet escaping from the safety and comfort of your home. In the unfortunate instance that this does happen to your pet, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions about them— Were they wearing a collar? What information does the collar and tags have? Did you microchip your dog or cat? And is that microchip registered with current, up to date contact information? If the answers to these questions are yes, the odds of your pet coming home to you go up exponentially. When you microchip your dog or cat, they are 2.5 times more likely to make their way home if they end up at a shelter. When it comes to pet identification, here are three absolute MUSTS that will raise your chances of a safe reunion:
- Visual ID: Make sure your pet has a collar and tag with your name and phone number. This type of ID might even save your pet from a scary and confusing trip into a shelter.
- Microchip: Permanent identification is just that…permanent! Microchips are the cornerstone of any pet identity system and help create shorter shelter stays and so many more happy endings for escaped pets.
- Current Registration: A microchip is no more than an implanted grain of technological rice if the number associated with the chip is not registered to the owners’ information. This also means that a move or change of phone number necessitates a change in registration. Nothing is more heartbreaking for a shelter or vet than to follow the elation of finding a microchip in a lost pet with the realization that the owners information is out of date and they cannot be found.
The second and third items on that list are what we’re here to talk about today— what pet microchipping is, why you should do it for you pet, the risks and rewards of microchipping a pet, and what the process looks like start to finish.
You Want Me To Microchip My Dog or Cat? Show Me the Numbers!
So how much impact does microchipping your dog or cat really have? 73% of owners of dogs and cats that were found to be microchipped were able to reunite with their pets. The return rate for cats is especially staggering in its disparity with non-microchipped animals— only 1.8% of non-microchipped cats were able to find their homes again, as opposed to 38.5% of those that were microchipped! Unfortunately, the number one reason for a microchipped dog not to get back home is a disconnected or incorrect phone number on the registration. Approximately 35% of failures to reunite were due to phone number problems.
Why Are All Pets Not Microchipped?
To answer this, we’ll review the culture of microchipping your dog or cat in the US vs. other countries as well as it’s history and common misconceptions. The microchip industry in the US has been fractured into multiple companies which has led to confusion among both pet owners and industry professionals in shelters and at veterinary clinics. Recently there has been a push to have universal scanners that has prevailed and allowed microchips to become even more effective at reuniting pets with their owners. Our mobile vets utilize the most advanced DATAMARS universal scanners to be sure we capture every microchip we scan. Animal advocate agencies have slowly been able to integrate the industry with universal scanners and client education which has led to higher rates of microchips in pets. Microchip technology has also advanced and microchips for your dog or cat are now smaller than ever which means implantation is easy for pets! In contrast to the US, the UK now has a 94% microchipping rate in pets due to a relatively new law making microchipping dogs and cats mandatory. This lead to government and private charity subsidizing of the chips to make them accessible to the public. A model like the UK is proof of the effectiveness of chips in not only reuniting pets with owners, but saving the shelters significant amounts of money due to an almost 20% reduction in intakes!
How a Microchip Works
Microchips for dogs and cats utilize RFID technology that is encased in biocompatible soda lime or borosilicate glass and hermetically sealed. Inside the chip also includes a capacitor, antenna and connecting wire. This technology is not active until it encounters the energy produced by a scanner at which time it uses that energy to transmit the number encoded on the chip back to the scanner. This means that microchips are not GPS devices and animals cannot be tracked from their microchips—the microchip must be scanned, and the number entered into a database that will find the corresponding owner contact information. GPS devices are available for pets but they come in the form of collars and are not a permanent form of ID.
What the Microchipping Procedure Looks Like
The microchip implantation procedure for your pet is similar to that of receiving a vaccination. Microchips for pets are implanted between the shoulder blades with a small syringe like device. The entire procedure takes less than 10 seconds to complete, and should be performed by your trusted veterinarian, vet tech, or mobile vet. After the implantation, there may be a very small amount of bleeding at the site and a small scab may form. This is normal, and should heal relatively quickly.
Can I Microchip My Puppy or Kitten?
Yes! Microchips can be implanted at any age, although most are inserted after 8 weeks of age. Your first puppy or kitten’s visit with your mobile vet is a great opportunity to discuss microchipping. Dogs and cats can also be microchipped while under anesthesia for their spay or neuter surgery. While this used to be common practice when the insertion needles were larger. Now that the technology has become so much tinier and needle size has also been reduced, waiting until the animal is under anesthesia does not hold as much benefit. We advise microchipping as soon as possible to reduce the chance of being separated from your new family member.
All Chips Are Not Created Equal
Our mobile vets choose to utilize the DATAMARS ISO compliant microchips. These chips operate at a standard frequency and are compliant with other countries that have adopted this frequency as their standard. In the United States, there are still other frequencies of chips available but we do not recommend using a non-ISO standard microchip. If your pet is already implanted with a chip, a simple way to know if the chip is an ISO frequency chip is to count the number of digits associated with your pet’s microchip number. An ISO compatible chip with have 15 digits, other chips will have 9-10 digits.
The microchip implanted in your pet should be registered with the company that produced the chip. For example, since Vet’s Here uses DATAMARS chips, those chips are registered with PetLink. There are some registries that offer services related to lost pets for an additional fee, but it is important to note that these subscriptions are not necessary for your pet to be registered. Once your pet is registered with the manufacturer of the chip the microchip information will also be linked to the universal pet microchip lookup site. Another item to note is that some companies do charge a very small amount to change your address, but hopefully this is a relatively rare occurrence, and it’s worth the minor cost to keep your pet’s registration information up to date.
Side Effects From Microchips
The most common complication with a microchip in your dog or cat has historically been migration of the chip to other areas of the body. This does not cause any harm to the animal, but can lead to instances where a microchip is missed when the animal is scanned. Specific scanning protocols have been developed that make sure the entire body is scanned to avoid missing a microchipped pet. As we mentioned before, the only other problem commonly seen with microchips is mild bleeding and discomfort at the injection site when the chip is first implanted. However these symptoms should heal quickly, and won’t cause long-term harm.
What To Do If You Have a Microchip in Your Lost Dog or Cat
The first thing you should do is contact the registry that you entered your pet’s chip into. If you do not remember where the chip is registered, but you have the number for it, you can utilize the universal AAHA database and enter the chip number. Your personal information is not displayed as a result on this website, but the company or registry associated with the chip is and you can then contact them. Some companies will offer additional services surrounding the possible loss of your pet—they will charge a monthly or yearly fee to offer additional help if your pet is lost. It is important to note that you are in no way obligated to pay these fees to continue registration of your pet! They are simply an added value that some pet owners appreciate.
What a Shelter or Veterinarian Will Do With a Microchipped Pet if They are Found
Any stray that is found or brought into a shelter or clinic should be scanned upon intake. If the microchip in your dog or cat is found, then it is assumed that someone has lost a loved one! The shelter or clinic will then look up the microchip and call the associated registry. The registry will often ask specific questions regarding the pet to be sure the pet is in the possession of the caller and then will either give the appropriate information to the finder of the pet to contact you, or will contact you themselves to let you know where your pet is! If you’re interested in a microchipping your dog, cat, or exotic pet, or maybe just want more about the process, contact us today. Our mobile vet unit will with with you to schedule a time that works for your and your furry friend.