I had a couple different jobs since I’ve left high school – all animal related. Each job has given me a lot of valuable information and experience with many animal types. During my years working for animal shelters, I’ve seen thousands of lost and unwanted pets. Even now working at MVVS, we’ve had clients who have found lost pets. One of the most important things I believe a pet owner should do for their beloved pet is to have their pet microchipped. In fact, if you travel with your pet to any union European countries, your pet is required to have a microchip. All pet owners in those countries have to have their pets microchipped. This blog will described what a microchip is and the importance of having a chip.
A microchip is a small computer chip that is about the size of a grain of rice that is injected under the skin between the shoulder blades. Each chip contains a combination of numbers and letters that is specific to a certain manufacturer. Some microchip companies are Home Again, 24petwatch and Avid – just to name a few. Many veterinary hospitals and human societies have a microchip scanner that will read the computer chip and show the number/ letters of said chip. The AAHA has a website, Universal Microchip Lookup Tool that is a database with every pet recovery registry that a specific microchip number is listed on. This search engine provides the microchip manufacturer and the companies’ phone number. To protect your privacy, the company does not release your contact information. A representative from the company will look up the number/ letter combo and depending on what options you choose, they can either release your contact information to the vet hospital or contact you directly. This is at the point where I will emphasize the importance of making sure your contact information is registered and kept up to date with the microchip company. Most microchip companies offer membership incentives. Each membership has a different fee associated with it and each company’s membership has different things included in it. Not registering and keeping your information up to date is a huge problem. It’s one of the reasons why here at MVVS, when we microchip your pet, we will register your contact information with the company. It’s only your responsibility to update the information if it changes.
Listen to these crazy numbers from the American Veterinary Medical Association. Of more than 7,700 stray animals at animal shelters:
- Dogs without chips were returned to their owners 21.9% of the time.
- Dogs with chips were returned to their owners 52.2% of the time.
- Cats without chips were reunited with their owners only 1.8% of the time.
- Cats with chips were reunited with their owners only 38.5% of the time.
In the case of those animals who were microchipped but were not returned to their owner, the AVMA states that this was primarily due to missing or incorrect owner information. Now, why wouldn’t you want to make sure you could do everything that you could to make sure your pet gets back home to you?
Now, I’m sure there are people out there that are saying “My cat doesn’t go outside” but guess what – you should still have them microchipped. I’ve had all of my strictly indoor cats microchipped because cats are excellent escape artist. You never know when/if a door doesn’t latch tightly or a screen window breaks. And as much as you know your beloved cat, if it becomes lost and someone else finds it and takes it to an animal shelter – even if you file a lost report, it will be extremely difficult for those shelter employees to differentiate your lost pet to a random stray. Little side story: When I was working at the shelter, we had a family who had their neutered male solid black cat accidentally get out of the house. They immediately called and filed a lost report. And I will tell you for weeks, I called them every time a black neutered male cat came into the shelter. They would come in hoping their lost guy was found but unfortunately they never did and I think they lost all hope and stopped coming to the shelter whenever we called. My heart breaks whenever I think of them.
There are a few rumors that I have to dispel….
- A microchip is not a GPS. There is no little homing beacon that will locate your lost pet. The microchip is just a permanent identification system.
- There is no proof that cell phones or radio waves interfere with the microchip and cause pain or make your pet act weird. I actually have been around a person who was convinced that their small dog was having issues of pain from the microchip every time her cell phone rang. After a lengthy conversation, we found out the dog was acting out every time the phone rang or vibrated because it didn’t like the sound the phone was making.
The British Small Animal Veterinary Association has kept a database since 1996 on over 4 million animals that have been microchipped. Out of those many animals only 391 have had adverse reactions. The most common problem reported is migration of the microchip from its original implantation site. Another rare situation that can occur is the microchip can fail and become undetected by the microchip scanner. One simple solution to make sure the chip is still working and at the implantation site is to scan for the chip during your pet’s yearly wellness exam.
I’ve been asked if it hurts the pet when the microchip is injected. My answer is always, “it feels a lot like a vaccine injection – just a slightly bigger needle. Some pets don’t even seem to notice that it ever happened and others act like all four limbs have just been amputated.” If you are worried that your pet is going to be in a lot of pain during the injection, MVVS does a lot of microchipping at the time of spay or neuter while the pet is under anesthesia.
Pennsylvania requires dogs 3 months and older to have yearly County license. PA does allow your dog to be eligible for a lifetime license if it is microchipped. For more information about lifetime license, please visit our PA Dog Law blog (link). Collars and current tags are still the quickest and easiest way to identify a pet’s owner. By using tags and a microchip together and ensuring both are regularly updated – is the best way to ensure your pet’s safe return.
If you have any other questions, or would like to have your pet microchipped, please call our office at 717-477-8938.