A pet microchip is inserted beneath the skin between the shoulder blades using a hypodermic needle, and it does not require anesthesia or a vet stay. About the size of a grain of rice, the pet microchip contains a radiofrequency transponder encased in bioglass—the same type used in human and animal implants. It does not track your pet like a GPS tracker; instead, the microchip functions as an identification device that can be scanned. The code produced when scanned is unique to your pet, and the registry system makes it possible to connect a dog with no other identification back to you. Your privacy is secure, as only someone with access to the code and registry will receive the information you have provided, such as your contact number.
Microchip radiofrequency is not harmful to your pet since it does not run on a power source. When microchips first became popular, there were several types of frequencies and different scanners for each frequency. Currently, the United States is leaning toward a standard frequency, and most readers can now pick up codes even from other frequencies. There have been cases in which the microchip malfunctions and must be removed and replaced; check with your vet during yearly checkups to see if the microchip is active and to make sure your information is updated in the registry. Also, some cases have reported that the microchip can move from the insertion location, although that has become increasingly rare with medical innovations and has never been reported to cause medical problems.
Microchipping is cost-effective (usually between $20 and $50) and, like vaccinations, is a preventative measure that can make a huge difference in the case of an emergency. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) conducted a study and found that microchipped pets were more than twice as likely to be returned to their owners as nonmicrochipped pets (52.2% microchipped compared to 21.9% nonmicrochipped). Many shelters and veterinarian offices microchip animals before they go home with new owners, and some even include it in adoption fees. While ID tags are helpful, collars do come off, and tags break or become worn and unreadable. Microchipping your pet may mean the difference between a tearful reunion and the loss of a friend.
It is recommended that even indoor dogs and cat should be microchipped. Cats, as escape artists, can get loose, and even the most obedient of dogs may get lost. It is not foolproof; human error occurs. Shelters can sometimes not get a read on a scanner, and if the dog is injured when brought in, the microchip could be damaged. However, you can’t argue with statistics. Your pet is more than twice as likely to be returned if he or she is microchipped. When only about half of dogs (and even fewer cats) are returned after two days of being missing or lost, something as simple as making sure your microchip information is updated can increase your pet’s chances of coming home.
If you move, contact your vet or the registry directly to update your information. You will not need to get a new microchip implanted as microchips are designed to last up to 25 years. When you adopt an animal, you can ask if the animal has been microchipped previously. You might only need to update the animal’s information to your own. When you move, make sure to find a local vet and provide your pet’s medical history, get a new ID tag with your new information, and update your pet’s microchip. With the high rate of euthanasia in animal shelters across the United States, these steps might save your pet’s life.