Microchipping: The Invisible Leash

It doesn’t matter if your dog or cat wanders out a forgotten gate, chases an unwitting squirrel or digs under the fence… if your pet is loose, your number one priority is bringing them home. Why isn’t your pet’s collar enough to guarantee a safe return? Simply put, tags can wear out and collars can fall off. Microchips are becoming the universal standard to extend the tether between pets and their homes.

Increased Chances of Returning Home

The American Humane Association estimates over 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen in the United States every year. But for animals that are microchipped, their chances of being reunited with family are significantly improved. A recent study found that microchipped dogs were returned to their owners at a rate of 52%. 38% of chipped cats were reunited with their owners, as opposed to the 2% return rate for cats without microchips. In January 2019, 88 cats and dogs were returned to their owners through Houston’s BARC shetlers alone.

Microchip Basics

But what are microchips and how do they work? Pet Health Network describes “microchips [as] implantable computer chips that encode a unique identification number to help reunite you with your lost pet. They work by receiving a radio signal from a scanner and transmitting the encoded chip identification number back to the scanner.” That number is stored in a database and is associated with your contact information. Furthermore, microchips are very easy for Veterinarian’s to insert; each microchip is as small as a single grain of rice and doesn’t require anesthesia when implanted. They sit just below the skin in between your dog or cat’s shoulder blades.

Every animal that is brought to an animal shelter or pet clinic is routinely scanned for a microchip. The unique code associated with a pet’s chip will provide the organization with their owner’s contact information. Some chips can even be customized to include additional emergency contacts, the pet’s  breed, or the Veterinarian’s contact information. Microchips do NOT offer GPS capabilities.

Global Safety

Because they are highly effective, microchips have become a common practice for petcare worldwide. The scanners found in pet clinics utilize varying frequencies to activate microchips that were implanted in different countries; European scanners work with chips at slightly higher levels of kilovolts than American scanners. If you ever plan on taking your pet with you abroad, check the country’s regulations for pet microchips. Some clinics have started to use scanners that register all varieties of chip to increase the chances of reuniting lost pets.

A Win-Win Decision

Microchips offer pet owners increased security, and fortunately, there is very low likelihood that your pet will have an adverse reaction to the implanting of a microchip. According to the British Small Animal Veterinary Association, an organization that maintains the database of negative effects caused microchips, “over 4 million animals have been microchipped and only 391 adverse reactions have been reported.”

Lastly, a microchip is not a replacement for a contact tag attached to a leather or nylon collar. Keeping a current tag on your pet’s collar can greatly expedite their return home if they ever do get out; neighbors can get in touch with you without having to take your animal to a clinic!

If your dog or cat is already microchipped, update your contact information as needed.  If you don’t know how to log into the database for your pet’s specific microchip, ask your Veterinarian about it at your next appointment!

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