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25 September 2015
Article written in collaboration with John Agionicolaitis, Animal Health Student, Asista Foundation
Microchipping technology is as a relatively new method of identifying your pet. Think of it as a digital collar with your pet’s information stored in a database for later access. There are many misconceptions about microchipping that we’d like to clarify for you – so read on as we demystify it all for you.
What is a microchip and how does it work?
It’s a little chip about the size of a grain of rice that is inserted under your pet’s skin. It serves as identification should your pet ever get lost. The microchip contains data that is associated with a file that contains your pet’s information. When the microchip is scanned, your pet’s file is retrieved from the microchip company’s database.
Contrary to popular belief, microchips do not serve as a GPS device to track your pet’s whereabouts. It’s simply a permanent form of identification that stores your contact information to be retrieved in case your pet is ever lost.
How will Animal Control or my local vet know to scan for a microchip should my pet get lost?
It is standard protocol at animal shelters, as well as some veterinary clinics equipped with a microchip scanner, to perform a full body scan of the animal with a microchip scanner device should a lost animal be presented with no identification. Sometimes, the microchip can migrate from its original insertion site, so a full body scan is performed to ensure that they read the chip properly.
To be on the safe side, it’s recommended that you still use a collar with tags since many people are still not familiar with microchipping. For example, if your neighbor finds your dog or your cat roaming in your neighborhood, they will know to look for your pet’s tags on the collar, but not necessarily to bring your dog to a shelter or a veterinarian’s office where they have a scanner.
Where is the microchip inserted? Is it safe?
The microchip is inserted by injection under the skin, between the shoulder blades, which creates a uniform area that is favourable for scanning. The procedure, as well as the microchip itself, is generally very safe for your pet. Your pet’s skin might become irritated at the injection site for a few hours, but if the insertion is performed by a veterinarian, the risk of complications is very low, despite studies that have found that in very rare cases, animals may have some adverse reactions ranging from infection, swelling to tumor formation. For example, according to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF), in a survey of 4 million microchipped animals, only 361 adverse reactions have been reported (1).
Where can I get my pet microchipped?
Often, your city may have a microchipping program in place so you can microchip your pet at a reduced cost. This is usually done in partnership with local veterinarians and veterinary technicians. Your local city hall should be able to tell you when and where you can take part in your local program. If that is not the case, your veterinarian’s office also offers this service.
Although the insertion of a microchip can be a subject of hot debate between pet owners, it’s a relatively low-risk procedure that can give you extra peace of mind, as it increases the chances that your four-legged family member is found and returned to you if they are ever lost.