Here’s a staggering statistic:
One in three pets become lost at some point in their lives.
For anyone avoiding a utility pole, perusing a storefront window or has logged into any social media account, it is not uncommon to see a posting related to someone who has found a lost pet or an owner seeking a lost pet.
The figures from humane societies across North America are sobering and troubling. Millions (!) of pets go missing and are picked up by SPCAs on a daily basis. A significant portion of those lost pets are euthanized because their owners simply cannot be located.
Microchipping isn’t a magic bullet by any means, but it provides a simple, safe and quick means of permanently providing your pet with a distinctive form of identification.
WHAT IS A MICROCHIP?
A microchip is a small, electronic chip enclosed in a glass cylinder that is about the same size as a large grain of rice.
The unit is a radio-frequency identification (RFID) transponder that carries a unique identification number. When scanned by a vet or shelter, it transmits the ID number and is read-only. There’s no battery, no power requirement, and no moving parts. The microchip is injected under the loose skin between your pet’s shoulder blades and can be done in your vet’s office. It’s no more invasive than a standard vaccination.
What it is not
A microchip does not replace a collar or tag
If your pet becomes lost, the first person she is likely to encounter will not be an animal shelter or vet clinic employee, but rather your neighbour down the street, or some random citizen who your confused and/or hungry pet took a liking to.
You can save everybody – including your pet – a lot of anxiety by making sure that your pet has a collar with your contact information on it. If the collar comes off, a microchip can serve as a good backup and help your pet find her way home.
Your pet’s microchip is not a GPS
A microchip is not like a GPS tracker that can be used to find a pet’s location. Microchips don’t transmit information. When a scanner is passed over a microchip, it will show the chip’s code, which is linked to the owner’s contact information. Under no circumstance can the microchip be used to determine a pet’s location.
The microchip is useless if it’s not registered
Unfortunately, many people believe that if their pet is microchipped, they can never get lost. Any animal shelter or vet will be able to pull up their contact information and call them directly.
Microchips don’t store your personal information – they store a unique code that is linked to that chip. If you don’t register that code and connect it with your contact information, then whoever scans that code will be no closer to finding you than if your pet was microchip-free.
HOW IS A MICROCHIP IMPLANTED?
A needle is used to place a small chip – the size of a large grain of rice – under the animal’s loose skin, usually between the shoulder blades.
It takes seconds. No surgery or anesthesia is required – a microchip can be implanted during a routine veterinary office visit. It takes more time to do the paperwork than implant the microchip.
On the pain scale, it hurts about as much as having blood drawn. It’s a large needle. For that reason, a lot of people have it done when their pets are being spayed or neutered.
This procedure doesn’t need to be done by a veterinarian, although it’s recommended.
FIVE BENEFITS OF MICROCHIPPING YOUR PET
- Identification collars and tags can break or get lost.
- Microchips are made to last the life of your pet – up to 25 years.
- Peace-of-mind. Successful scans result in reuniting you with your pet as soon as possible.
- Your pet gets lost, it is far less likely to be euthanized or re-homed.
- You have low-cost and reliable proof of ownership in cases of theft.
Hopefully, your pet will never go missing. But if it happens, you are giving yourself and your cherished pet the best chance of a swift, joyful reunion.
What does it cost ?
If you’re going to a vet just for a microchip, it’s probably going be in the range of $50 and $75. If you have it inserted while you’re having other treatments done – like a regular check up – then it may be a bit less in some cases.
The City of Toronto offers a microchip service via a mobile Chip Truck. This service is offered April through October and costs $25 for cats and $35 for dogs, plus $10 for a City of Toronto pet license.
Click below for times and locations.
How will it help me get my pet back?
It’s only going to help if someone picks up your pet and takes him to a shelter or veterinarian’s office to be scanned for a chip. Some people think chips are like a tracker or a GPS device, but a microchip only works if someone scans the chip.
FACT: Many more pets are microchipped than are properly registered. The paperwork needs to be complete and the chip has to be registered to you, complete with current contact information.
What kind of information is contained in the microchip and can my pet be tracked ? Will it store my pet's medical information?
The microchips presently used in pets ONLY contain identification numbers. No, the microchip is not a GPS device and cannot track your animal if it gets lost. Although the present technology microchip itself does not contain your pet’s medical information or track it’s whereabouts, it may become a standard feature in the next-generation chips.
What are the risks associated my pet ? Could there be microchip complications for my dog or cat?
Yes, but the number is extraordinarily small. The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) maintains a database of adverse reactions to microchips. Since the database was started in 1996, over 4 million animals have been microchipped and only 391 (.01%) had any reported adverse reactions.
Migration of the microchip from its original implantation site is the most common problem reported. Other reported issues, such as failure of the microchip, hair loss, infection, swelling, and tumor formation, were reported in much lower numbers.
Should I be concerned about my privacy if my pet is microchipped?
The information you provide to the manufacturer’s microchip registry will be used to contact you in the event your pet is found and their microchip is scanned. The only information about you contained in the database is the information that you choose to provide when you register the chip or update your information.
If that information is missing or incorrect, your chances of getting your pet back are dramatically reduced.
What is an “ISO” standard microchip?
In the early 2000’s, not all microchips could be read by scanners. Since then, the International Standards Organization (ISO) has approved and recommended a global standard for microchips. The global standard is intended to create an identification system that is consistent worldwide.
For example, if a dog was implanted with an ISO standard microchip in the Canada travels to Europe with its owners and they become separated, the ISO standard scanners in Europe would be able to read the dog’s microchip.
Does a microchipping really help to get my lost pet home?
Yes. A study (Lord et al, JAVMA, July 15, 2009) of more than 7,700 stray animals at animal shelters across the United States showed the following:
- Dogs without microchips were returned to their owners 21.9% of the time, whereas microchipped dogs were reunited to their owners 52.2% of the time. Almost 2.5x better success rate!
- Cats without microchips were returned to their owners a lowly 1.8% of the time, whereas microchipped cats went back home 38.5% of the time. More than 20x more likely to be reunited!
Can a microchip replace identification tags and collars?
No. Microchips are great for permanent identification that is tamper-proof, but nothing replaces a collar with up-to-date identification tags.
If a pet is wearing a collar with tags when it’s lost, it’s often a very quick process to read the tag and contact the owner. If a pet is not wearing a collar and tags, or if the collar is lost or removed, then the presence of a microchip might be the only way the pet’s owner can be found.
What maintenance is required after implantation?
Essentially none. The microchips themselves do not require ongoing care, although you do need to keep your contact information up-to-date in the database.
In the event you notice any irregularities near the site of the microchip, such as oozing or swelling, contact your veterinarian.
Are microchips foolproof?
It is not an infallible system. Although rare, microchips can fail and become undetectable. Improper scanning technique can also lead to failure to detect a microchip.
Some of the animal-related factors that can interfere with the microchip detection include:
- animals that can’t stay still or struggle while being scanned
- the presence of long, knotted hair at or near the microchip site
- excessive fat deposits in the area of implantation
- a metal collar