In celebration of National Pet Identification Week, let’s talk about microchips! There are many misconceptions about microchips which have led to confusion and reservations about getting your pet microchipped. Let’s clear up the myths about microchipping!

What is a Microchip?

A microchip is an identification device about the size of a single grain of rice. It is injected under your pet’s skin in between their shoulder blades.  The needle used to inject the microchip is not much bigger than the needles used to give your pet’s vaccines. This is a quick procedure done by your veterinarian and it does not require anesthesia or sedation for your pet.

How Does a Microchip Work?

The microchip itself does not have a power source, however, when a microchip scanner is used to detect the microchip it will emit a low radio frequency allowing the microchip to be discovered in the pet.  Every microchip has a unique identification number attached to it, and when the microchip is scanned the number will display on the microchip scanner. The animal shelter and veterinarians use this number to identify the pet and look up the pet owner’s contact information to reunite the pet back to its owner.

Will it Track My Pet?

No, microchips are not in any way a tracking device, they do not contain any technology to tell us where your pet is or where they have been.  Microchips are only in place as a form of identification for your pet.  They do not contain any other information other than a unique set of numbers that will then be used to identify your pet.

What Are the Benefits of Having My Pet Microchipped?

5 million pets are reported lost each year in the United States alone.  That is a lot of pets! That amounts to 1 in 3 pets going missing at some point in their lifetime. Luckily, 85% of lost pets, primarily dogs and cats, are found. Some are found wandering their neighborhood, others are found hundreds of miles away from home. 

Having your pet microchipped can greatly increase the chances of your pet being returned to you! Why? When a pet is found and brought to a shelter, police station, or veterinarian, they are first scanned for a microchip. If the pet has a microchip, a number will appear on the scanner and then that microchip number is looked up in the national microchip database. The microchip company will then be called and given the pet’s unique microchip number, which will then allow the authorities to get the contact information of the pet’s owner.  Pets that do not have microchips will usually be held in the shelter for a very short time before they will be considered adoptable to the general public.

There have also been many cases of arguments over pet ownership. Sometimes a pet is found and claimed by two separate parties. Who really owns the pet? The pet may have been stolen or found and the person who found the pet decided to keep it rather than take it to a shelter or register it as found.  Months later, the pet is taken to a veterinarian or a shelter and a microchip is found.  Who gets to keep the pet then? Most authorities will rule in favor of who the microchip is registered to. Sometimes, pets are found wandering the streets and have been injured. A microchip may be the only way an animal shelter or veterinarian can identify the pet.   There are also countless stories of pets being lost for years and reunited with their owners. Often the pet is found hundreds of miles away from home!

My Dog or Cat Never Leaves the House. Why Would I Microchip Them?

That’s a good question. We never PLAN on losing our pets.  Most of the time it is very unusual circumstances involved with lost pets. Ask yourself some important questions about your pet;

Hurricane Katrina alone displaced thousands of pets.

Another thing to consider is circumstances beyond your control. If you live in an area known to have seasons of unpredictable weather such as hurricanes or tornadoes, do you have an exit plan in place involving your pets? Thousands of pets were left behind when Hurricane Katrina struck, simply because the rescuers refused to allow the pets to come with when they evacuated. Not all of the emergency evacuation shelters allowed pets.

If you live in a questionable neighborhood, are you prepared if someone breaks into your house and leaves a window or door open when they flee?  Or what if someone comes into your back yard and takes your dog, or sets them free? It has happened!  Unfortunately, people are very quick to judge others and decide to take action, even if they don’t know the full story!

Just Another Form of Identification

Frequently, a pet is found with a collar but no ID tag on the collar or the ID tag is so worn it cannot be read. Rabies tags will not have the pet’s identification on them, just that they have been vaccinated for rabies at some point.  Sometimes pets are found without any sort of identification on them at all!  One cannot predict when a pet may be lost, as we never plan on losing our pets!

Ultimately a microchip is just another form of identification, however, it is the only type of information that we know will not get removed or taken off your pet, and it will never become “unreadable”.  Microchips are very affordable and can, at one point in your pet’s life, be the only thing reuniting you with your pet!

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