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Microchip FAQ: Everything you need to know about microchipping your pet

For more than 30 years veterinarians have been suggesting putting a microchip in your pet. But what actually are these microchips? Are they safe? And what is the purpose of doing something that sounds more like a sci-fi movie procedure than a health suggestion for your furry friend? Keep reading to find out!

This article was written by a FirstVet vet

Did you know that FirstVet offers video calls with experienced vets? You can get a consultation within 30 minutes by downloading the FirstVet app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

What are microchips?

A microchip is a marker that is about the size of a grain of rice with a unique identification number. It can be scanned using a specialized reader, which transmits only the identification number on the chip. There is no personal information attached to the microchip itself.

This identification number, similar to the VIN number of a car, is registered to one of several companies that has your personal information on file. This personal information usually includes your name, address, phone number, a secondary contact if you can’t be reached, and a description of your pet. Either you or the veterinary clinic that inserts the microchip must provide these details to the registration company, and every time you move or change your phone number you will need to update this information.

A microchip is an identification device, not a GPS tracker, and unfortunately cannot be used to locate a lost pet.

Are microchips safe?

The microchip is small enough to pass through the bore of a large needle made specifically for this purpose. If you’re familiar with needle sizes, this translates to a 12-gauge needle, or a needle with a 2.7mm opening.

Microchip implantation is basically a shot, and can be done on awake animals, sometimes even in the exam room while you watch. Because the needle is larger, your pet may react more than they do with a regular vaccination, but generally the reaction is very minimal.

Your vet may recommend waiting until spay or neuter surgery for microchip implantation while your pet is under general anesthesia because this will mean your pet is perfectly still and the microchip is inserted in exactly the right place. If you’re concerned with your pet escaping, you should always microchip sooner rather than later.

The microchip is inserted in the “scruff,” or area of extra skin, on the back of the neck. The area doesn’t need to be closed with a stitch or treated in any way after microchip insertion.

Less than 0.01% of animals experience any side effects from microchipping. Of these reactions, migration of the microchip from its original implantation site is the most common problem reported. Other problems such as failure of the microchip, hair loss, mild infections, and swelling were reported in much lower numbers.

Why should I microchip my pet?

Microchips help to locate lost pets. Anyone who finds a lost animal can scan for the microchip, contact the registry, and get your pet safely home to you. And there are protections in place so that a random person can’t look up an owner’s information, so you don’t need to be concerned about the security of your personal details.

All veterinary clinics, animal shelters, and many police jurisdictions have microchip scanners, so members of the general public who find lost pets should have ready access to get a found pet scanned. And a lost pet doesn’t always just mean one who escapes your backyard or runs out the door. Pets can get lost during travel, burglaries, natural disasters, or car accidents. They can even break their leash or slip out of their collar on a walk with you.

Microchipping can literally mean life or death for your pet. A study of more than 7,700 stray animals at animal shelters showed that dogs with microchips are more than twice as likely to be reunited with their owners. Cats without microchips were reunited with their owners only 1.8% of the time, whereas microchipped cats went back home 38.5% of the time!

Side note: For microchipped animals that weren’t returned to their owners, most of the time it was due to incorrect or missing owner information in the registry database - so don’t forget to register and keep your information updated. Additionally, a microchip is a way to permanently identify ownership of your pet for legal purposes or international travel. In fact, many countries require a pet to be microchipped for entry.

With all these benefits, it’s difficult to deny that microchipping is an important health decision for all of your furry friends. If you have additional questions or concerns about whether microchipping is right for your pet, please schedule a consultation with one of our FirstVet veterinary team.

To read the article about microchipped animals entering shelters use the following link:

https://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.235.2.160

Read more:

What You Need to Know About Spaying or Neutering your Cat

What You Need to Know About Spaying Your Female Dog

What You Need to Know About Neutering Your Male Dog

Have more questions about microchips and other forms of pet ID?

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This article was written by a FirstVet vet

Did you know that FirstVet offers video calls with experienced vets? You can get a consultation within 30 minutes by downloading the FirstVet app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

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