How to Keep Your Pets Safe Through Microchipping
You might not have realized that February is Responsible Pet Owner's Month! As veterinarians, responsible pet ownership is something we are very passionate about, and any chance we can highlight that is a good one in our eyes. We see far too many heartbreaking situations in our daily lives due to mistakes that could have been prevented. One of those things is pets that go missing. And trust us—we know that accidents happen. Both dogs and cats can be escape artists, which makes microchipping your pets one of the best things you can do to honor this month. We've shared some answers to common questions about cat and dog microchipping below so that you can have some peace of mind when it comes to your beloved fur babies.
What is a pet microchip?
A pet microchip is an electronic microchip that has a unique number. It is activated by a short radio wave that can be read by a hand-held scanner. The microchip number is then registered with all your contact information. If your pet is found and brought into a vet or shelter, they will be scanned, and the microchip scanner will read the microchip number. The microchip number will be searchable in a database where your information can be retrieved so you can be contacted and reunited with your pet.
My pet already wears tags - why do they need a microchip?
Many people assume that because their pets always have their tags on, their pet is safe, but this is not necessarily the case.
Even if your pet wears a collar and tags, your pet should get a microchip because:
- People take collars off their pets all the time for baths and sometimes forget to put them back on.
- Collars can get caught on things and break away.
- Your pet can slip out of a collar on a walk and be lost without identification.
- You can move and have outdated information on the tag.
Losing a pet is one of the worst things that can happen. Making sure that you have as many things as possible in place in case it happens can mean the difference between finding your pet and never seeing them again. That being said, having a microchip should be your first line of defense when you consider its reliability. It is permanent and will protect your beloved pet 24/7. But your pet should always wear a secure collar with legible and up-to-date contact information on their identification tags too.
Why should I microchip my cat or dog?
We've seen far too many cases of lost dogs getting thrown into shelters, and, sadly, not all shelters have a no-kill policy. As we've said, microchipping isn't a guarantee that you'll find your lost pet, but it surely increases your chances.
There are many reasons to microchip your pet, and they are as follows:
- Having a microchip will increase the chance that your pet will be returned if they get lost.
- It will give you peace of mind.
- Your pet is protected 24/7.
- It is required for international travel and documentation.
- Natural disasters and emergencies are unpredictable; you never know what could happen.
- It can aid in proof of ownership in case of theft.
- Accidents happen.
- Thunderstorms and fireworks can startle your pet, causing them to escape.
- It is affordable.
- It is simple and easy.
Is microchipping safe?
The chip is made from materials that will not disintegrate, rust, or cause an allergic reaction. The AVMA says the risk to pets is very low and is far outweighed by the benefit of getting the pet back if lost. The AVMA recommends microchips for safe, permanent identification.
Where is the microchip inserted?
Microchips are implanted under the skin and in between the shoulder blades. Microchips are designed to stay where they are implanted, but they can migrate. If they migrate, they are highly likely to stay in the broad area scanned when looking for a microchip.
My cat is an indoor cat - do I still need to microchip them?
Many things can lure your indoor kitty outside, making cat microchipping a must. Curious kitties can be intrigued by birds, squirrels, and other critters leading to escape attempts. Scaredy cats can get incredibly nervous if there are visitors in the house. A friend that leaves the door ajar or a plumber that has the door open to get their tools can give any skittish cat a tempting escape route. And if you have a mischievous cat, they are lying in wait for an opportunity, and it could just be a matter of time before they sneak out. Another thing is your indoor-only cat is not ALWAYS indoors. Whether you are taking your cat to the vet for a checkup or even on a plane for travel, there are multiple chances for them to escape. You should always keep your cat in a secure carrier during car rides and other transport, but microchips provide extra security.
If my pet gets lost, will the microchip tell me where my pet is?
No. It is not something where you log into an app and find your dog. The thing to remember is that a microchip is not a GPS. Your dog must be located by someone else and turned into a shelter or veterinarian. Some companies do offer GPS devices to put on your pet’s collar. These devices are great, especially if you go hiking, camping, or hunting. They cannot, however, replace the reliability of a microchip. Your cat or dog must always have it on, and it must be charged to work. Keep in mind that technology is constantly advancing, so it would not be surprising that a tiny GPS implant with a long-lasting battery life could be developed in the future.
Does microchipping hurt?
Microchips are implanted, very much the same way vaccines are administered with a hypodermic needle. This needle is larger than the ones used for vaccines, so it will likely cause an immediate “pinch or sting.” But just like vaccines, the sensation does not last long, and any lingering tenderness will subside over a short period of time. Once the injection is done, it is unlikely it will cause any more discomfort. Many people elect to wait until their pet is spayed or neutered to get a microchip, but it is unnecessary, as anesthesia is not needed for this procedure. Waiting for the appropriate time to spay or neuter your pet to get them microchipped will leave them without permanent identification for that amount of time.
Is there a recovery time after microchipping?
No, once the microchip is implanted, there is no aftercare or monitoring needed.
Is microchipping expensive/covered by pet insurance?
Microchips are relatively inexpensive; they are worth every penny when you consider the peace of mind that it can give you just by knowing that your pet has one. As with any insurance company, any covered expenses are determined by the type of coverage selected. Pet insurance covers accidents and illnesses that cannot be anticipated. If you have pet insurance that includes a wellness plan, it is most likely that there is a reimbursement amount based on your plan's set benefit schedule.
How do they know to contact me if my pet is found?
After your pet is microchipped, you will then need to have that chip registered. When you adopt a pet with a microchip, you will usually need to register it using the provided instructions. Many veterinarians will register microchips that they implant to make sure that the microchip does get registered. At this point, all the contact information that is provided is registered to the microchip and this is the information that will be used to contact you if your pet is found. Verify your contact information and alternate contact information once a year to make sure it is up to date. Some microchip companies even have apps that you can update information with or even report your missing pet.
When a microchipped pet is not reunited with its family, it is usually due to incorrect, missing information or an unregistered microchip.
How do I know if my pet is registered?
When your pet is microchipped, you should get some paperwork to register your microchip or email confirmation to verify the information. This will also tell you how your information can be updated when needed. DO NOT confuse microchip registration with needing to obtain a local license for your pet.
What happens if I forget my pet’s microchip number?
Your pet’s microchip should be in your pet’s medical record, and you should have it scanned from time to time to assure you that it is in place and is working. Any veterinarian or shelter with a microchip scanner can scan and provide the chip number to you. If you have lost track of where your chip is registered, you can look this up in the universal microchip database that the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) maintains. It will help identify the registry that your pet’s microchip is registered or identify the microchip brand so you can contact them.
If you haven't gotten your pet microchipped, call your veterinarian. We want to ensure that, should your beloved pet gets lost, they will be returned to you with the help of this innovative device. If you don't have one yet, we can help you find a local veterinarian!