Microchipping is done when a needle is used to insert a little chip under your pet’s skin, usually between its shoulder blades, explained Louise Murray, DVM, director of medicine for the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, via WebMD, a health website. It can be done to horses, ferrets, dogs, cats, and most other animals.
The chip contains a unique number so that it can be read by a scanner. Microchips contain a capacitor, antenna, connecting wire, and a covering, according to the Animal Veterinary Medical Association, a platform that protects, promotes, and advances the needs of veterinarians.
They are also battery-free and sealed in biocompatible glass or polymer, which is covered by a sheath to prevent migration. Microchips are produced by different manufacturers in the US and other countries. It takes seconds for the microchip to be placed under your pet’s skin but most animals don’t flinch when being microchipped.
Problems Associated With the Microchip Data of Stray Cats and Dogs (2015)
Emily Lancaster and colleagues of life sciences and biomedical journal portal PMC undertook a retrospective single cohort study of all dog and cat admissions into RSPCA-QLD (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Queensland) shelters from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2013. For the purpose of manipulation, data were imported from the RSPCA’s data management program ShelterMate into Microsoft Excel. Data included animal identification number, shelter name, data of admission and more.
Lancaster and colleagues found that only 28% of incoming dogs and 9% of incoming cats had microchips prior to admission. Reclaim rates were higher for animals with microchips than without (80% versus 37% for dogs; 51% versus 5% for cats). Of all incoming microchipped animals, 80% of 2439 current owners could be contacted (85% of 1892 dogs; 62% of 547 cats). However, 6% of dog owners and 14% of cat owners that were successfully contacted did not want to reclaim their animal.
No problems were found with the microchip data for 63% of dogs and 63% of cats that were microchipped. 37% of dogs and cats that were microchipped had problems with the microchip data. Some of the specific problems identified with animals that were microchipped were “microchip registered to previous owner or organization” (47%), “microchip not registered" (14%), "microchip registered to different animal" (less than 1%), “all numbers incorrect/disconnected” (29%), “no answer on any phone number and unable to leave message or able to leave message only on an unconfirmed number" (10%).
Of those registered to a previous owner or organization, the microchip was found to be linked with a previous owner (72% of dogs and 81% of cats), breeder (20% of dogs and 7% of cats), pet shop (5% of dogs and 9% of cats), rescue group or shelter (3% of dogs and 2% of cats; nine rescue groups and two shelters), and veterinarian (1% of cats).
Of the animals whose owner was unable to be contacted due to incorrect/disconnected phone numbers, only 13% of dogs and 11% of cats had an alternate contact number that was able to provide owner’s current details, or who contacted the owner listed on the microchip on behalf of the RSPCA.
Among animals whose microchip was linked to a previous owner or organization, 36% could provide the RSPCA with current details of the owner. Meanwhile, 46% could not provide details and, with a small percentage of animals (18%), it was unknown whether they could provide current owner details. Microchipped animals were more likely to be reclaimed than those without, said the authors. This showed that microchips are important for identification. However, microchip data problems minimize the change that an animal’s owner will be contacted and for the animal to be reclaimed.
How Does Microchipping Work?
Microchipping increases the likelihood of you reuniting with your lost or stolen pet. Some people think microchips are like a GPS device or a tracker, but misconceptions aside, your pet’s microchip only works if it is scanned. Once the person gets the chip’s number and its manufacturer, they will contact the company to find the owner.
Registration is as important as the chip. Hence, you have to get the paperwork done and ensure that the chip is registered to you along with your current contact numbers. If you move or change your contact details, be sure to update that information as soon as possible. It’s useless if the information you submitted is not current.
Always remember that a chip is only one part of your pet’s identification system. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to place a tag or collar on your pet. Not everyone knows about microchips so either they will keep your pet or give it away. If your phone number is there, the person can reach out. They don’t need your pet’s name or your address. In fact, they just need to know how to contact you if they have your pet.
Don’t let your pet run loose. Bear in mind that a microchip cannot stop your furry companion from being involved in a traffic accident or being stolen by an individual who has malicious intentions.
How Much Microchipping Costs and Which Brand is the Best
If done by a veterinarian, expect the process to cost around $50. You can also check with local animal shelters or rescue groups as they may offer it for a lesser price. On the other hand, there is no “best” brand. WebMD suggested consulting your veterinarian and your local animal shelter to see what chip is commonly used in your area.
Try to find out which chips can be read at your local shelter to ensure that the implanted chip can be scanned. However, some chips can be “more universally read than others.” Not all shelters have universal scanners. Murray suggest visiting your veterinarian at every checkup, allowing them to scan to chip to ensure that it can still be read. This is also to make sure that the chip is still near your pet’s shoulder blades.
What if A Chip Is Implanted Incorrectly?
Complications can occur, said Murray. Such mistakes happen but it is rare. When a chip is improperly placed, it can result in potentially life-threatening complications. For example, microchips have been improperly implanted into the spinal canal of small-breed puppies, causing acute-onset tetraparesis or weakness of all four limbs. The condition was resolved after the chip was surgically removed.
Losing a pet is indeed devastating. Therefore, pets should be microchipped to help distressed owners reunite with their furry friends. A tag or collar should also be placed to act as an alternative identification system. Be sure the microchip or tag’s contact details are updated to increase an owner’s likelihood of reuniting with their pet.