Microchips For Pets Help Find Lost Pets7 min read

 In Cats, Dogs, News



Years ago most dogs wore a collar that had a round metal ID tag attached to it by a metal loop or punched into the collar itself.  The idea was that a lost pet with a collar could easily be reunited with its owner by just following the information imprinted on the metal tags.  There was one big problem.  Dogs easily lose collars.   No collar meant no way to find out whom the animal belonged to.  For years a lot of breeding dogs were tattooed on the inner thigh or the ear with a special ID number.  This is a bit antiquated plus it is too painful if not done under some sort of a mild sedative or anesthetic.   Microchips for pets have changed all of that.

Microchips for pets are about a half inch long and about an eighth of an inch wide.  They are very small slivers of metal that are impregnated with all the necessary pet information. They are mini transpondersA transponder is an electronic piece of equipment that receives information via a radio signal on a frequency and transmits information back along a different frequency. Transponders are used in commercial aviation continuously..  They do not harbor any energy but when a scanner of a certain frequency is turned on, the embedded microchip comes to life.  This allows the pet ID to be shown on the scanner view screen.  There is a problem of non uniformity in several parts of the world.  American microchips for pets are tuned to a different frequency compared to those used in Europe.  If a pet from the U.S. goes over to Europe (and or vice versa) it may not be read at all due to the difference in frequencies.




Insertion of microchips for pets is very simple.  A good example is the video above showing a Cairn TerrierThe Cairn Terrier named Toto was the breed of dog that Dorothy made famous in "The Wizard of Oz" back in the 1930s getting a microchip implanted.  American veterinarians  implant the microchip right between the shoulder blades.  Europeans often put the chip on either side of the neck.  I feel between the shoulder blades is safer as there is very little “going on” anatomically in that region.  The needle of a microchip plunger is larger than a needle used for vaccinations.  Most pets feel little discomfort.  Veterinarians will administer the chip while the pet is being neutered under a general anesthetic.  Many pets sold at pet stores already have the chip embedded by a veterinarian that does their pet store medical work.




There is no perfect ID system for dogs and cats.  Dogs and cats do not have birth certificates nor can they talk and tell a stranger where they live.  They do not have dental records for identification nor do they have their paw prints on file by law enforcement!  Although not perfect microchips for pets are a huge advancement for uniting lost pets with their owners.  Microchips will last at least 20-25 years so it will remain in your pet for life.  Chips usually are adhered to the subcutaneous tissues so they normally do not migrate. I have radiographed older dogs that had a microchip implanted when young and you could see it sitting there on the xray just like the day it was implanted.

There are two problems as I see it today:


    This is an important consideration when deciding which brand of chip to use.  Microchips for pets is a competitive business.  Many brands are advertised that do an excellent job.  The problem is that the chips often work under different frequencies.  This means that some chip readers may not be able to detect all chip frequencies.  There is a need for a complete universal chip reader. Another technological issue is that many of the chips store pet information in distinctly different databases.  Over time chip databases will be shared among users.  That way all chip competitors will have pet information under one umbrella.


    All veterinary clinics should scan all pets that come into the office. There are reasons for this.  If a lost pet is taken to a veterinary office a scan should be done.  If a new puppy comes in a scan should be done.  Any animal that has been chipped by that medical office should be scanned to make sure the chip is working.  Many clinics do versions of this but uniformity is the key.  The other side of the equation is the pet owners.  If the owners do not register their new chip on the manufacturer’s registry or database the chip is worthless. Many owners move and forget to update their personal information.  Many times these pets are tracked down to the veterinarian that injected the chip.  There are pet owners that are not aware of microchips for pets.  They may find a dog and just keep it.  Pet owners do not own the scanners.  Most are in the hands of veterinarians and shelters that work with tons of animals on a daily basis.  Scanners average about $350 each so it would not be an impulse purchase for sure!  If you are given or bought a dog or cat with a microchip already embedded in it make sure you get the scanner information from the veterinarian or shelter and enter YOUR information in the database registry in place of the old information.




Microchips for pets are not a total solution.  It is still important to use a collar. The only information needed on the collar is your phone number.  You do not need to put the pet’s name or your address- just the phone number!  The telephone number can be embroidered on the collar or placed on a tag.  Granted, the collar may break or slip off the dog but combined with a microchip your odds have gone way up if you lose your pet.  Make sure you use a breakaway collar for cats.  Regular collars placed on cats can hang them.  Cats love jumping and can easily get hung up on a branch or other object.  Cats also hate tight fitting collars.  Most cats are left handed (Or is that left pawed?).  I saw countless cats presented with their left paw wedged UNDERNEATH the collar trying to get out of it.  It sort of looked like a feline yoga position.

Microchips for pets are a technological marvel when compared to 30 years ago. I wrote in The Future of Veterinary Medicine that microchips are just the beginning.  Future uses of them may help eradicate cancers and other diseases.  The future is now.


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