Did you hear about the Yorkie who suddenly turned up after being missing for eight years? Or how about the Fox Terrier who was found over 1000 miles away from her home, fourteen years after disappearing? If you Google “dogs reunited with owners after years lost,” a surplus of stories populates your search. And sure, stories like this are bittersweet and heartwarming but they likely wouldn’t be possible without microchipping.
As we enter the warmer months of spring and summer, we will likely be spending more time outdoors. Given the current state of the world, we may not be engaging in our usual social festivities however we will be looking to escape the monotony of life in quarantine by planning beach days, hiking & camping trips, or maybe even creating a splash zone in the backyard with a sprinkler. The more time outdoors however means the greater the risk that our pets could wander off and become lost. And leading into the Memorial and Independence Day holidays - where scary fireworks often make an appearance - we should take as much precaution as possible to keep our pets safe. More dogs go missing during the ‘fourth of July’ holiday than any other time of year. Microchipping your pet is one extra layer of protection in the event they ever go missing.
May is National Chip Your Pet Month and was created to help educate the public on the importance of this life-saving technology. Microchipping is the most effective method for reuniting lost pets with their owners.
What exactly is a microchip?
A microchip is a tiny device - about the size of a grain of rice - that is implanted in the scruff of your dog or cat’s neck; the purpose being to give them a unique identifier should they ever become lost. The technology is rather simple too. They are radio frequency identification (RFID) transponders that when scanned, transmit a unique identification number. That ID number then links to contact information registered with the microchip company by the pet’s owner.
Is a microchip safe and/or will the implantation hurt my pet?
Yes, microchips are perfectly safe. And no, the implantation is not painful. This procedure is not surgical nor does it require anesthetic. It is performed at your veterinarian’s office and is similar to administering a vaccine or a routine shot. The microchip injection comes preloaded in a sterile applicator and is injected under the loose skin between the shoulder blades. The entire process takes only a few seconds from beginning to end.
Is a microchip the same as a GPS device?
Pet microchips are not tracking devices. Because they are RFID technology, they do not require a power source like GPS devices do. When a microchip scanner is passed over a pet, the microchip absorbs power from the scanner to transmit the identification number. Since there is no battery or moving parts, there is nothing to keep charged, wear out or replace. The microchip will last your pet’s entire lifetime.
My dog is already microchipped. Does my cat need to be as well?
Cats don’t typically wear collars and may not have any other form of ID. Statistics indicated that less than 2% of cats without microchips are ever returned home. However, a microchipped cat has a ‘return-to-owner’ rate that is increased by 38% than that of a non-microchipped cat. So yes, it is important that your cats are microchipped as well.
But microchipping your pets is only the first step. It is equally as important to make sure your pet’s microchip is registered with the correct contact information.
I already paid for the microchip procedure. Why do I need to register it too?
Your veterinarian only inserts the microchip at your request. It is your responsibility to ensure that the microchip is then registered with your most current contact information. It can only do its intended job if we do our part as well. Without full and proper registration, your pet’s microchip is essentially useless. In the event that your pet ever becomes lost, that microchip number will trace back to an empty database.
As pet parents we never want to imagine losing our beloved pets, but it can and does happen more frequently than one might realize. In fact, it is estimated that one in three pets will become lost at some point during their lifetime.
- According to the American Humane Association, more than 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen in the United States each year.
- According to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, about 22% of lost dogs that enter animal shelters are reunited with their families. But the rate of return for microchipped dogs is more than 52%, which is over a 200% increase.
- In the same study, it was found that less than 2% of lost cats that enter animal shelters are reunited with their families but the rate of return for microchipped cats is more than 38%, which is a 2,000% increase.
It costs anywhere from about $40 to $100 to get your pet microchipped. In some respects it may seem like a lot of money, but it is a small price to pay for an added safe guard in the event that your pet ever becomes lost. It gives your pet a voice. It provides a secure, reliable and permanent identification that greatly increases the likelihood that your pet - if lost - will be returned home to you.
And in a slightly different context it greatly affects shelter numbers and statistics in a positive way. Shelter and rescues throughout the U.S. are already overrun with too many homeless animals and not enough people willing to adopt them. Microchipping your pets means that in the event they get lost and turn up in a shelter, your animal will be reunited with you and will open up space and resources within that shelter for a non-microchipped animal.
If your pet is already microchipped, now is a good time to review your contact information and make sure that it is current and up-to-date. If your pet is not yet microchipped, reach out to your veterinarian today! They may just be offering a discount or special in honor of National Chip Your Pet Month!
As always… stay safe and healthy FuRRiends!