Microchips for Dogs & Cats: Why should you microchip your pet?

pet microchip

Why do we love our pets? It could be because their love and loyalty is so unconditional. Whether we have had a good day or bad, they are always there offering support. In return, they trust in us to provide for them. Part of this protection includes identifying them with a microchip.

Identification Technology is crucial in the pet world whether it involves competition, shelter, travel, or animal control. As our pets cannot speak for themselves, it is our obligation as owners to protect them should they get lost. Microchipping allows for identification that cannot be removed or misplaced. Better yet, the microchip is readable beyond the life of your pet ensuring that a dog, cat, ferret or horse that needs to be identified for whatever reason, will be.

Obviously, our pets need to be fed, exercised, trained and loved. They also need to be identified should they become separated from you or, worse yet, stolen.

An open door, a hole under a fence or a simple distraction like a squirrel is all it can take for your pet to bolt. One in every three pets will get lost during their lifetime. As many as 83% of unidentifiable pets are never reunited with their owners and 95% of microchipped pets are reunited with their owners (1). If that doesn’t disrupt your peace of mind, we’re not sure what will.

Additionally, if you are planning a move or travel internationally, your pet should absolutely be microchipped. Most of the world’s countries require this form of pet identification on import documents, and a microchip can help avoid issues when clearing customs in a foreign country.

What is a microchip?

A pet microchip is the most permanent form of pet identification available today. A microchip is a small, passive, electronic chip enclosed in a glass cylinder. It is about the size of a grain of rice. It is implanted painlessly by your veterinarian on the left side of the neck, behind the ear.

There are several different types of microchips on the market in the United States. The 15-digit ISO* 11784 compliant pet microchip is the world standard. Most countries require this type of pet microchip for entry. Even if you don’t plan to travel with your pet, animal control agencies in cities and towns in your country have microchip scanners that can read a microchip, and that is the first thing they will do when finding a lost pet.

*The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) develops and publishes worldwide standards for radio frequencies. This means that, if your pet is lost in any foreign country, officials can read your pet’s chip as it will transmit in a frequency that can be recognized by universal scanners in any country.

Are microchips safe for my pet?

Yes, microchips are perfectly safe for all pets. They are an inert, passive device that does not transmit any signal unless scanned by a microchip scanner.

Microchips are not tracking devices. They do not store your pet’s medical or personal information. They only store a unique number which identifies the manufacturer of the chip as well as a series of other numbers that are individually assigned to your pet. The number is unique worldwide, is permanent, and cannot be altered.

Datamars is one of the foremost manufacturers of the ISO 11784 compliant 15-digit pet microchips. The Microfindrâ„¢ Slim Chip is as small as a thin grain of rice and weighs a fraction of standard glass microchips.

RELATED: More details about pet microchips

How is a microchip implanted?

Your veterinarian will implant your pet’s chip with a preloaded syringe during a regular veterinary visit without aesthesia. As the chip is implanted just under the skin, there is no pain associated with the procedure. Because it is important to implant the chip properly so it can be read, it should only be done by a veterinarian or veterinary technician. The microchip should be scanned before and after implantation to ensure it works and is implanted properly.

Pet owners should check their pet at the implantation site to make sure there are no complications or infections. These conditions are rare but they can happen.

How can my pet’s microchip be read?

There are basically two types of microchip scanners on the market. Forward reading scanners can only read 15 digit microchips. Universal microchip scanners are both forward and backward reading and can scan non-ISO 11784 microchips as well as those that are ISO 11785 compliant. A simple push of a button while moving the scanner slowly over the back of your pet’s neck will produce a number which is unique to your pet, and in no way hurts your pet.

Pet owners of overweight or long-haired pets may need to repeat the process several times before an accurate read can be obtained. Removing your pet’s collar can also contribute to a quicker read. High quality universal scanners like the Datamars Compact Max, Omni Max or HomeAgain Worldscan are all known for their fast and accurate scans.

Register your pet’s microchip

After microchipping your pet, the next step is registration. Don’t skip this step!!

Many manufacturers have their own database with owner contact information associated with every microchip number. Some manufacturers charge pet owners for registering, but most do not.

If the manufacturer of your pet’s microchip does not have a registry, there are many websites that offer registration for free. Examples are animalhumanesociety.org, 24petwatch.com, foundanimals.org, petkey.org, peeva.co and aaha.org.

Registration information can include your pet’s physical attributes, rabies vaccination date and number, disabilities, medical conditions, daily medications, and veterinary information to assist control officials finding pets who may have medical needs. Clients can upload a photo of their pets for free with most registration databases.

Datamars’ database can be found at PetLink.net and provide pet owners who get their registered microchip are offered free registration and unlimited changes to their contact information. They also issue email reminders to check and update your contact information.

Remember to keep your information up to date

Whenever you relocate or travel, take a minute to check your pet’s information. Entering your cell phone number is essential as this will likely not change when your life changes. Pet birthdays are a great time to remember to update your pet’s information.

If you are traveling overseas and your cell phone will not be functioning, contact the administrator of the database and ask that a note be put in your pet’s file with a temporary phone or email address.

Will anyone be able to see my contact information?

No, your privacy is protected with microchip registration companies. Simply put, the information that you enter in the manufacturer’s database will be used by database administrators to contact you should your pet become lost or separated from you. Your contact information is not accessible by the public.

Have your pet’s microchip scanned regularly

Every time you take your pet to your veterinarian, have them scan your pet’s microchip to make sure it is functioning properly and has not migrated in their body. Migrations are uncommon occurrences, but they do happen. Should the chip move and is unable to be scanned, your vet can implant another chip on the other side of your pet’s neck. Having two microchips is perfectly okay; just keep your contact information for both chips up to date.

Microchip scanners operate at various frequencies (125 kHz, 128 kHz, and 134.2 kHz). The standard frequency for ISO 11784 microchips is 134.2 kHz. There are universal scanners that will detect all microchip frequencies, and they are widely available today. Pet owners who travel frequently should consider investing in a microchip scanner to ensure that their pet can be properly identified.

Pet Identification

The concept of pet identification is quite simple but often misunderstood. It is the pet owner’s responsibility to be sure that their pet can be identified if they get lost. Be sure and stay current on microchip registration information. If you plan to relocate or switch phone numbers, update your pet’s registration information with your cell phone number.

RELATED: Happy stories of pets lost, sold or stolen reunited with their owners

Other useful tips

  • Keep rabies tags on your pet.
  • Keep a collar ID tag on your pet with your current address and cell phone number.
  • Keep your the microchip manufacturer’s tag on your pet if they have one.
  • Always keep a picture of your pet handy. Better yet, a picture of you with your pet in case identification is necessary.

Identifying your pet is a simple thing. Ask your veterinarian about implanting a microchip for your dog, cat, ferret or horse. Most importantly, don’t forget to register your contact information!

Why is it important to microchip your pet? Simply put, microchipping your pet could mean the difference between finding or losing your pet if it is lost or stolen. This is a small, painless step toward keeping your pet safe at home or on the road.

(1) Humane Society (HSSV.org)

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