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Microchipping Pets: What Every Pet Owner Needs to Know

Microchipping Pets: What Every Pet Owner Needs to Know

As pet owners, we know that there’s a variety of possible scenarios involving our fur babies that will have us ready to take action—for instance, if they are sick or injured.  However, losing a pet is most likely every pet owner’s worst nightmare.  When our furry friend goes missing, it’s truly a scary feeling, and as much as we do the best to ensure the safety of our beloved pets at all times, accidents can happen.  In a world so big to explore and with naturally inquisitive pets, they might just be curious about the environment around them.  As a result, our pets may sometimes wander off farther than they should and end up lost.  On the other hand, it may be possible that they were stolen—which is a situation that I’m sure no pet parent would ever want to imagine.  While we can hope that they’ll be able to find their way back home one day, oftentimes, that is sadly not the case.  Instead, the majority of them end up in shelters waiting to be found by their owners.

In fact, the amount of pets that become lost in the US each year might even shock you.

10 million.  That’s right.  According to the American Humane organization, around 10 million pets are lost or stolen in the United States each year, with only about 15% of dogs and 2% of cats reuniting with their families—given that they do not have an ID tag or microchip.  Here are some other interesting statistics about lost pets in the United States:

  • 1 in 3 pets in the U.S will end up lost during their lifetime
  • Of the 6.5 million animals entering U.S shelters each year, around 810,000 of them who entered as strays are reunited with their owners—710,000 dogs and 100,000 cats

However, the chances of your pet being found and returned to your awaiting arms rise if they have a microchip!  According to an AVMA study, pets that are microchipped are far more likely to be returned to their owners.  Though exact statistics vary, it is estimated that microchipped pets are up to 50% more likely to reunite with their loving owners than those who do not have a microchip.  To be pet specific, the study found that microchipped cats are returned to their owners around 38% of the time, while the return-to-owner rate for microchipped dogs is around an astonishing 52%

Microchipping is such an easy thing to do to ensure that you have the best chance of getting your fur baby back home safely, should separating ever occur.  Our furry friends deserve all the love and protection we can give them, so why not take this extra step to guarantee their safe return home to us!

What is a Microchip?

Contrary to what one may think, pet microchips are not a new technology.  In fact, it’s a practice among pet parents that has been utilized for many years and is growing in popularity among the mainstream market.  Why? Microchips offer a permanent identification solution to locating your lost fur baby!

A microchip is essentially a small, electronic chip that is enclosed in a biocompatible glass cylinder—often used for implants in both humans and animals.  Microchips use passive radio frequency identification (RFID) technology and is also known as a passive integrated responder (PIT) meaning that it does require power or a battery to function.  The standard size of a pet microchip is between 11 to 13mm long and 2mm in diameter.  So in relatable terms, it’s no longer than a grain of rice!  Despite its small size, it sure does make a big impact in helping pet parents bring home their precious furry companions.

How does it work?

Each microchip contains a unique personal identification number that is linked to a microchip registry—the company that manufactures and maintains the chip, along with your contact information and details about your pet—and is used to identify your furry friend when they are found and scanned.

The microchip activates when a scanner, usually hand-held, is passed over the area where it is located within your pet’s body.  The radio-waves emitted by the scanner activate the microchip by reading its radio frequency in order to identify the identification number.  This number is then displayed on the screen of the scanner.  The most common frequencies that microchips in the U.S. operate on are 125-kHz and 134.2-kHz—with 128-kHz being the rarest, therefore, most veterinarians would typically have either two scanners or a universal scanner that is able to accommodate both!  Universal readers are designed to scan and detect both ISO compliant (134.2-kHz) and non-ISO compliant (125-kHz and 128-kHz) microchips.  ISO refers to the International Standards Organization, which has approved and recommended a global standard for microchips.

Keep in mind a microchip will not be able to track your pet’s location—it’s not a GPS!  It is simply used for identification and contact purposes only!  It stores your pet’s unique identification number that when scanned by a veterinarian, shelter, or other qualified specialist,  can determine which company the microchip is registered to so that they can reach out and obtain your contact information concerning your missing—and now found— fur baby.

Why consider a microchip?

Though you shouldn’t rely exclusively on microchips to protect your pet, they make all the difference when it comes to reuniting with your furry friend!

For one, it's a form of permanent identification that is secure and reliable.  Make no mistake!  Collars and tags are still highly essential.  They offer a quick and easy way for you to be contacted and for your pet to be identified by any normal citizen they come across.  But in the case that your pet’s collar or tag falls off or becomes damaged while they are lost, how else would anyone be able to identify your pet and contact its rightful owner?  Surely, no regular person will have a microchip scanner on-hand.  This is where microchips come in.  Microchips represent a great back-up plan for identification in case your pet is missing their collar and ID tag.  Of course, this would only be possible if your pet is found and brought to a veterinarian or animal shelter where they will be able to use a specialized scanner.

Microchips are an effective way to have your pet returned, and not to mention, they are relatively inexpensive and affordable!

How Are Microchips Implanted?

Microchips are inserted beneath your pet’s skin using a hypodermic needle, usually between their shoulders.

Microchipping does not involve any form of surgery and is typically quick and painless, therefore there is no need for any type of sedation or anesthesia.  It is a minimally invasive and low-risk procedure.  Depending on the professional performing the procedure, it should only take a few minutes for your fur baby to be chipped! 

According to the Humane Society of the United States, pet microchips are designed to last up to 25 years!

Is it possible for the microchip to fall out?

If the microchip is inserted in a proper and safer manner, pet parents should not worry about it moving or migrating to other parts of their pet’s body.  In rare occurrences, there have been cases of microchips moving to another part of a pet’s body other than its original injection site.  However, the chances of that happening are very low.  Proper insertion procedures ensure that the microchip stays in place and remains functional throughout your pet’s lifetime!

Make the Most of Your Pet's Microchip!

  • Register your pet along with your contact information with the appropriate agency and be sure to make updates to the microchip registry if any information changes, for example, if you move and your address changes or if your phone number is different. This is very important!  A lot can change in a couple of months—or in a year.  Stay consistent in making sure that any information regarding you and your pet is up-to-date!

A microchip only does its job if it is registered with up-to-date contact information in a pet recovery database!  Otherwise, how else will others know who to call when your precious pet is found?  An unregistered microchip will be difficult to trace back to its rightful owner and it may take a lot of time in order to track down that information.

  • Keep information such as the pet ID number, manufacturer website, and login info in a safe place.
  • Maintenance! According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, pet parents should have their veterinarian scan their pet’s microchip at least once per year in order to verify and make certain that the chip is functioning, performing optimally, and can be detected.
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