Today our pets and other animals are an important part of our families and lives. Our pets are like children to some of us and we’d hate the thought of losing them especially if they are lost or stolen. Use of a simple microchip can decrease the chance that they are not lost forever. Almost all veterinary clinics and humane societies check for microchips when a new animal is presented to them to try to find the original owner. Often dog shows and hunt clubs will check for microchips at competitions to verify ownership. These microchips are read by a reader which most today will read all of the different companies’ microchips. These microchips, if registered correctly, will send them back to you. It is basically a positive identification method and in some instances can be used for proof of ownership of an animal. Some states (PA is one) offer a lifetime license for your dog with positive identification – a microchip or a permanent tattoo that they issue to you.

One type of microchip reader.

What Is A Microchip

Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce were the pioneers for this technology and the first patent was processed in 1959. Today, a microchip is the size of a grain of rice. It is commonly known as a small magnetic chip, but really is a type of passive Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) chip and is a permanent means of identification. It is passive as it needs no external power source and lasts for about 25 years, so for the lifetime of most animals. It is not a GPS or tracking unit; research is still ongoing on these to make them more efficient and cost effective. They are available, but are quite expensive and most have a limited range of tracking ability (last I looked at have 2-3 miles of tracking ability). Enrollment either online or through regular mail needs to be done to provide contact information for you, the owner, your veterinarian, and the pet’s information. This information must also be updated whenever you move or your phone or email changes. A collar tag and/or certificate is provided depending upon which company’s microchip is used. Sometimes, animals being shipped out of the country are required to be microchipped by the country of destination.

Differences in Identification Methods – Id tags vs Microchips

What is better collar tags or microchips? Actually, you can do both to try to increase a lost pet’s chances of returning home to you. A collar with an id tag is great and very visible on a found/lost pet unless it comes off or is removed by another animal or briars. A microchip on the other hand is very unlikely to be removed.

One type of microchip-used by the AKC Reunite program.

Location of the Microchip

What I’m going to talk about in this paragraph refers to the USA as I am not aware of other countries’ requirements. Microchip location in dogs and cats is at the edge of the right top of the scapula and is to be placed just into the edge of the muscle layer. In horses, they are to be put on the left side of the neck halfway between the top of the head and point of the shoulder about one inch below the mane hairline into the edge of the nuchal ligament (is the ligament that supports or suspends the head and neck of the horse). Many other animals have been microchipped including birds, llamas, and captive white-tailed deer (PA requires 2 chips- 1 behind the right ear and 1 in the right tail flap area-these tend to migrate in my experience!). In the US, USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) has implemented the NAIS (National Animal Identification System) to aid animal traceability in the country by means of external RFID ear tags. This is to help track any diseased animals to determine other areas that may be of concern in reference to that disease to help locate where it originated.

Pet Microchip Problems

Pet microchip implantation is no more complicated than a vaccine except with a slightly larger needle. No anesthesia is needed and pain is minimal and short-lived. But as with any medical procedure or vaccination, reactions can occur such as hemorrhage, infection, chip reading failure, and most commonly chip migration. While these are rare, actually I’ve only seen migration in a few humane society adoptees. Probably the most common problem by far is the lack of registration of the microchip. Many humane societies and individual breeders place microchips in their animals but never register them. They simply use them for personal means of identification within their individual settings/groups. The problem arises when these animals leave the group. I have checked several strays and purchased dogs that have microchips but have not been registered according to online sites. This makes the chips worthless, but they can be registered to the new owners at that point.

Leaflet promoting microchips.

Pet Microchip Costs

Depending upon where it is done and what brand of microchip is used, pet microchips can cost anywhere from $20.00-$100.00. This is a relatively low cost to try to protect our animals from permanent lost or stolen situations. It is really a security measure that cannot be lost or removed. There are several good pet microchip companies such as AVID, Home Again, 911 Pet Chips and the AKC Reunite program.

Should Pet Microchips Be Mandatory

Apparently, some countries have made pet (specifically dogs) microchipping mandatory. In these programs, all pups are required to be microchipped by a certain age (similar to our licensing requirements in most states) so that lost and/or abandoned pets can be kept to a minimum. Could this be a step in the right direction to making sure that our pets do not get separated from their families and lessen the number of abandoned pets in this country?