Exactly what is a microchip?
A microchip is a tiny computer chip–about the size of a grain of rice–that your vet can implant between your pet’s shoulder blades. Each microchip has a unique number, which is entered in an international database. Veterinary hospitals, animal shelters, and humane societies have microchip readers, scanners that can quickly be run over the dog’s shoulder blades, allowing the scanner to read your dog’s individual microchip number. The number allows the person scanning your dog to know which database your pet is registered with. They can then call a toll-free number, and the database will match your pet’s number with your name and phone number so you can be contacted.
Is it truly a permanent method of identification?
Yes, one microchip should last for your pet’s lifetime, and once you have sent in the initial registration, your only future responsibility is keeping the registry informed of any changes in your contact numbers. Although a properly implanted chip cannot be lost or damaged, very rarely a microchip will migrate. It is a good idea to have your veterinarian scan your dog each year when they go for their annual exam, to make sure that the chip is still in the correct location.
Is microchipping a new practice?
No, microchipping pets has been a common practice in Canada and Great Britain for many years and becomes more and more popular each year in the United States. These tiny computer chips are actually quite amazing, as they can hold large amounts of information. There is no worry about duplicate numbers. As there are so many possible combinations that there are billions of identification numbers available. More than enough to make sure each pet has a unique number.
Will it hurt your pet?
No, the procedure is simple and fairly painless, not requiring any anesthesia. It is much like getting a vaccination and most animals show absolutely no reaction at all.
Are there any downsides?
The only downside to a microchip is this will not work unless your pet is taken to someone who has a scanner. Animal shelters and veterinarians are offered the microchip readers for free. A breeder is offered a scanner for a very small fee. So 99% of them have readers available. If your pet is found by an individual who is not familiar with microchips then your dog cannot be identified. This is why it is still recommended that all dogs wear collars with ID tags.
Your microchip should also come with a tag for your dog’s collar, which has a toll-free number listed. Should your pet become lost, be sure to notify your microchip provider. Some will send out an e-mail to animal shelters and veterinary clinics within a 25-mile radius. This is sent out immediately when you call them to tell them the pet is lost. They may also have available a Lost Pet Poster service and other benefits.