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How Do Pet Microchips Work and Should My Dog Have One?

Microchipping provides reliable, secure, and permanent identification for your pet.

October 11, 2022 4 min read
How Do Pet Microchips Work and Should My Dog Have One?

Microchips are designed to help reunite lost pets with their owners. According to research conducted by Ohio State University, dogs with microchips were 2.5 times more likely to be returned home, and cats 20 times more likely to be returned home compared to animals without microchips. A microchip, coupled with an identification (ID) tag, can increase the odds of your pet returning home safely if it should become lost or stolen.

What Is a Microchip?

In the pet care industry, microchips refer to small, electronic chips that are implanted under a pet’s skin. This chip may be no larger than a grain of rice but plays a direct role in helping to reunite pets and their owners.

Each microchip has a unique identification number that directly corresponds to the microchip company’s database. This database includes a variety of essential information, such as the pet’s name and the pet owner’s personal contact information, such as their phone number and address.

Also referred to as radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, microchips provide animals with a permanent form of identification. Pet microchips do not require batteries or an internal power source. Instead, they sit safely under the skin where they can be read by a microchip scanner.

How Do Microchips Work?

Microchips work using radio frequency technology. The tiny microchip works as a radio receiver and responder. If your pet becomes lost, a stranger may bring it to a veterinarian, animal shelter, or other organization that may have a microchip reader. When scanned, the microchip reader triggers the microchip and displays a unique ID number.

It is then possible to search through several databases for the unique ID number that corresponds with the microchip. Pet owners can choose to register their microchip with a variety of different databases. Once the pet owner is identified in the database, they can be contacted through a variety of methods based on the information provided during registration, such as a phone number, physical address, or email address.

What Is the Microchipping Process?

Microchips should only be placed by a licensed veterinarian. Pet owners can schedule an appointment to have their pet microchipped at any time or can wait until their dog is spayed or neutered around six months of age and have it done while their pet is under anesthesia.

Before the microchip is inserted, it is scanned while in its sterile packaging to confirm that the identification code matches what is shown on the package’s bar code label. Next, the needle that contains the microchip is inserted into a syringe or applicator gun. Your vet will then position your dog for injection. Microchips are generally placed in the subcutaneous tissue along the spine (dorsal midline), between the shoulder blades.

While receiving a microchip, the dog should be lying on his stomach or standing. A small amount of loose skin between the shoulder blades is pulled up and the needle is inserted under the skin. Once the applicator trigger is squeezed, the microchip implants into the dog’s tissue.

After a microchip is inserted, your vet will scan your pet to ensure that the chip is reading properly. The microchipping process takes just a few moments, is safe, and is relatively painless. Even small puppies are able to tolerate the procedure without incident.

The cost to have a dog microchipped can range from vet to vet; however, you can expect the average vet to charge around $50. You may be responsible for paying an annual or one-time fee for the pet registry, depending on what manufacturer you choose. Before choosing a registry, do your research to see what services are offered.

Does My Dog Still Need an ID Tag?

While microchips can be highly advantageous if your pet is lost or stolen, they do not substitute for a quality ID tag. ID tags are small tags that contain your contact details, such as your name and phone number. Unlike a microchip that requires you to travel to a vet’s office or local animal shelter to get scanned, an ID tag can be read by anyone that finds your pet.

There are a wide variety of ID tags on the market, from noiseless plastic options and engraved plates to personalized collars and digital ID tags. With a digital ID tag, the ID contains a unique QR code that can be read by any modern phone. If someone finds your pet, they can scan the QR code with their phone to find out the animal’s name, the pet owner’s contact information, and important information about the dog, such as any medical conditions the animal may have.

All pets, regardless of age or breed, should be microchipped and have an ID tag attached to their collar. Having both forms of protection can help keep your dog safe and significantly increase the odds of a happy reunion if you and your beloved pet should ever be separated. Be sure to always keep the contact information on both the microchip and ID tag up-to-date to make reaching you fast and easy.

Get Your Pet Microchipped

Although a microchip does not replace an ID tag and collar, it does provide your pet with a permanent form of identification that can be used to help your dog return home safely and as quickly as possible. If your dog has not yet been microchipped, consider scheduling an appointment with your vet.

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