Microchipping is becoming popular in the United States and worldwide. Some countries require animals to be microchipped before entering, which is how I first learned about microchips. A family member was moving to Germany and in order to take along her cat, she had to have a microchip implanted in him.
Microchips significantly increase the chances of being reunited with a lost pet!
A microchip is an electronic chip that is about the size of a grain of rice. Microchips include a unique ID number assigned to your pet. Once a microchip is inserted under your pet’s skin, you must register the ID number with your contact information.
How Do Microchips Work?
Microchips do not contain a battery and do not need to be replaced. Microchip scanners activate and identify microchips within your pet, but the scanner must be run over the location of the microchip or it will not be identified. Veterinarians and shelter employees are trained to scan your pet’s entire body.
You can choose to have multiple chips (with different frequencies) placed in your pet and the chips will not interfere with each other. The ISO Standard (International Standards Organization) chip will work worldwide and has a frequency of 134.2 kHz.
Are Microchips Standardized?
Unfortunately, there is no federal or state regulation of microchips at this time, so there are a few different frequencies of microchip available (125 kHz, 128 kHz, and 134.2 kHz.) “Universal scanners” can detect all of these frequencies and lots of shelters and vets do use universal scanners, although some do not.
How Is a Microchip Inserted?
Micro chips are inserted below your pet’s skin using a hypodermic needle at your veterinarian’s office. It does not cause your pet any more discomfort than a regular shot. I watched the aforementioned traveling cat have his micro chip implanted and he had no reaction.
Microchips can also be inserted during your pet’s spay or neuter operation, as they will be under general anesthesia at that time. My kittens will have their microchips implanted during their operations at 6 months old. Our kittens weren’t microchipped prior to adoption because we adopted them straight from a garage!
Is My Adopted Pet Microchipped?
This depends on where you adopt your pet! Check with the shelter or breeder to see if your pet has been microchipped. You will need to get the ID number and registry information from them at the time you adopt your pet so that you can link the microchip to your contact information. If you’re unsure if your pet has a microchip, your vet can easily check by running a scanner over your pet!
Are Microchips Really Worth It?
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (Lord et al, JAVMA, July 15, 2009,) pets that have a microchip are more likely to be reunited with their owners.
- Dogs without a microchip are reunited with their owners 21.9% of the time.
- Dogs WITH a microchip are reunited 52.2% of the time!
- Cats without a microchip are reunited with their owners only 1.8% of the time.
- Cats WITH a microchip are reunited 38.5% of the time!
Microchips cost about $35 (although this may vary depending where your pet is chipped.) Although microchips are not fool proof, the above percentages show that they greatly increase the chances of finding your lost pet!
Remember to UPDATE your CONTACT information regularly with your microchip registry – especially when you move! Otherwise, even if your pet’s microchip is found, the vet or shelter may not be able to find you, the owner.
Other Important Facts
- Microchips do not replace collars and tags. The microchip does not include your pet’s veterinary history or proof of rabies vaccination.
- Microchips do not work 100% of the time due to scanner operation error, incorrect contact information, or other circumstances.
- Microchips cannot track your pet.
- Countries have different regulations about pets and microchips. If you are traveling or moving, make sure to check the specific regulations.
Jennifer Kean is a writer and pet-lover who owns two rescue kittens (lifetime cat owner too!) and has a 40 gallon fish tank!