If you share your home with pets, you’ve likely heard of a microchip. Perhaps your pets have them. These minuscule electronic chips are simple, inexpensive, and increasingly popular among the pet population, and that’s a good thing. In a study by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), only 22% of non-microchipped dogs entering shelters were reunited with their owners. However, 52 percent of microchipped dogs were returned home. Clearly, microchips are helping reunite families, but what are they all about?

What is a microchip?

A microchip is a rice-sized device that is inserted under the pet’s skin. Once activated with a microchip scanner, the chip relays a unique identification number that is displayed on the scanner’s screen. Each microchip’s specific number corresponds with its recipient and owner’s contact information in a separate database, increasing the chances of pets being returned home if they become lost and found. Microchip technology has been around since the 1960s, but the first database for pet microchips was established in the mid-1990s. Since then, millions of pets have been microchipped and the number continues to grow.

What pets should get microchipped?

Microchips are versatile and can be used in many domestic animals, most commonly dogs and cats. Any pet that spends time outdoors and off-leash should be microchipped, but pets who spend most of their time lounging on the couch also should be considered, because it only takes one ajar door or one loose fence post for your pet to escape. Pets who travel frequently with their owners should be microchipped, as well. Since microchipping has minimal side effects, virtually all domestic pets are good candidates for these devices. 

Are pet collars and identification tags a thing of the past?

Absolutely not. While microchips are a reliable, permanent form of pet identification, collars and identification (ID) tags are still necessary. Microchips are useful only if your lost pet gets into the right hands—someone with a microchip scanner. Typically, only veterinary clinics and shelters are fitted with these unique scanners, so identification tags should still be the primary source of contact information. The benefit of the microchip comes into play when and if your pet loses her collar and ID tag. 

Do microchips have GPS?

No, current pet microchips are not equipped with the Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, but this may be on the horizon. 

Will microchipping hurt my pet?

Microchips are inserted under the skin with a sterile, large-bore needle, similar to a vaccine. While most pets do not react adversely, particularly sensitive pets may briefly flinch or yelp. Some pets may be sore at the injection site for a short time, but this is not typical. 

Does my pet need anesthesia for a microchip?

Anesthesia is not required for microchip insertion; however, many veterinarians recommend microchipping during a routine surgery, such as a spay or neuter. While microchip insertion is fast, anesthetized patients certainly will not feel any discomfort during placement. If your pet is scheduled for a procedure with anesthesia in the coming weeks, this is an ideal time for microchipping, but it is not required, because your veterinarian can safely place a microchip during a quick outpatient appointment. 

What are the side effects of microchipping pets?

Most microchipped pets experience no side effects. Sensitive pets may be slightly itchy, irritated, or sore at the injection site, but this is usually short-lived. Infection, hair loss, microchip failure, or tumor formation are rare, but possible, adverse effects. Also, while not typically harmful, microchips can occasionally migrate under the skin to other body areas. You must contact our veterinary team if you observe any of these abnormal signs in your pet. 

Does a microchip always work?

Microchips greatly increase the chances of lost pets being reunited with their families, but they are not effective if owners don’t keep their contact information updated on the microchip’s registration. If you move or change your phone number, be sure to update your information so you can be contacted in case your pet becomes lost. Also, during your pet’s regular wellness exams, ask our team to scan your pet’s microchip to be sure it is working properly.  

Are you interested in microchipping your pet? Contact us to set up an appointment with our veterinary team and help ensure a reunion with your pet should she get lost.