All About the Pet Microchip: Is it Worth it?

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pet microchip

Pet identification is important. There are various ways you can identify your pet including a collar, tag, tattoo, and/or pet microchip. Pet microchips are especially useful because many lost pets can also lose their collars.

A pet microchip is a small implantable device that when scanned identifies a unique code that can identify the pet and the owner. They are permanent methods of identification that can reunite lost pets back with their owners.

How Pet Microchips Work

A microchip is small (about the size of a grain of rice), compact and easily inserted under the skin. When a microchip scanner is used to scan a dog or cat with a microchip, a unique number will come up which identifies your pet and ultimately you.

Here is a recent example of how a pet microchip works. Recently a dog in my community ran out of the house when the neighbor’s child left the front door open. The owner could not catch their dog. So about two hours later, the dog was picked up by a Good Samaritan and brought to the local veterinary clinic where I was working. Somewhere in this dogs adventure, he lost his collar. The dog was scanned and a microchip was found. We called the microchip company, gave them the microchip number, and the company gave us the owners name, address, and phone number. We called the owner and within 30 minutes, the dog “Buffy” was reunited with his very anxious and happy owner. Learn more about How Do Pet Microchips Work? 

How Much Does a Pet Microchip Cost?

The cost of placing a microchip in a dog or cat varies with the hospital or clinic, type of chip, and your location in the country. The cost range most often is $45 to $150. The microchip fee may be included in the adoption or purchase fee. Some pets are sold or adopted with microchips already in place such as from various humane societies, shelters, and/or breeders.

The cost associated with the microchip generally includes registration in the microchip recovery database and varies by company.

How Long Does a Microchip Last?

According to most sources, the microchip will last at least 20 years and most chip companies will guarantee the chip for the life of the animal.

Are Pet Microchips Worth It?

A pet microchip is worth it if there is ever a chance your dog or cat could be separated from you, lost or get out. Things do happen. Here is one example.

A client that I knew had their dog come up missing last year. They looked everywhere. They posted on social media, had signs up in the neighborhood, contacted shelters, and local vet clinics. They didn’t know what happen. They thought either the dog was injured and died or ran off and got lost.

Seven months later, they received a call that a shelter had their dog. This shelter was 800 miles away! They came to find out a neighbor up the road, one they didn’t even know, took the dog with them when they moved 6 states away. The dog ran away from their house and ended up at the shelter, was scanned for a microchip, and the true owner found. The dog was reunited with its true owner back in Ohio. Unbelievable!

So are pet microchips worth it? I believe they are. Learn more in these two articles – Should You Use a Dog Microchip? and Microchipping for Your Cat’s Safety.

Can You Feel Your Pet’s Microchip?

Some clients ask if you can feel a microchip. The answer is that it depends. It is related to where the microchip is placed and the confirmation of your pet.

You can sometimes feel a microchip in some small dogs and cats that are thin with short hair coats. The pet microchip is generally placed over the shoulder blades and is about the size of a grain of rice. When the microchip is placed in slightly deeper tissues, you cannot feel it. When placed more superficial, you can feel it. Some pet microchips will migrate and move to areas over the chest wall. There can be less fat in these areas making them easier to feel on small dogs.

How and Where Are Pet Microchips Placed?

Pet microchips are most often placed using a large syringe over the shoulder blades. This is just behind the head, over the scruff of the neck. Placement generally causes very little pain and is very well tolerated by most pets. The procedure varies with the clinic but may include these steps:

  • The microchip packet is opened and the contents are evaluated. This generally includes a tag and clip that can go on your pet’s collar that indicates that your pet has a microchip and the kind of chip, several stickers that include the chip number, registration form, instructions for registration, and the syringe and chip.
  • The chip is scanned to confirm that it works and the number is accurate.
  • The area where the microchip is to be placed is disinfected with alcohol.
  • Some clinics use ice packs to cool the skin over the area where the microchip will be placed to help numb the skin to minimize discomfort.
  • A technician restrains the pet briefly while the chip is inserted. It is inserted like a routine vaccine injection in the subcutaneous area (an area between the skin and muscle). The needle on the syringe is bigger than a routine shot when the needle goes in, the plunger is pressed which pushes the microchip. Any discomfort is brief and just a little more than a routine vaccine shot.
  • After the procedure, the pet is scanned to ensure the chip is present and working. Learn more about the scanners in What is a Pet Microchip Scanner? In general, this is a very quick and easy procedure.
  • Once the microchip is injected, over time a thin layer of connective tissue will form around the chip, and anchor it in place.
  • The final step is getting the chip registered to you! The company needs to pair the chip number with your information so if your pet is found, they can also find you. Many veterinary clinics will help you with this process or even do it for you. It is critical to provide your name, address, and best contact number. A cell phone number works best, as you can be more easily reached 24/7. Note: If at any time your contact information or cell phone number changes, please be sure to contact the microchip company with the new contact information.

Even though placing a microchip in a dog or cat is easy and fairly painless, many pets get their microchip during spay or castration procedures. This is nice because your pet is already sedated and they feel no discomfort.

Who Implants Microchips?

Most veterinary clinics and shelters will provide microchip service. Call your local vet or shelter to determine if they do this procedure and the cost.

What Care Does a Microchip Require?

The pet microchip requires no care or maintenance.

What are the Side Effects of Getting a Pet Microchip?

Side effects are very uncommon. After implanting the microchip, there can be some bleeding at the site of injection (just as you would with any injection). It would be possible to have hair loss or an infection but these are very uncommon and this author has never seen a problem with a microchip implantation.

Which Companies Offer Microchips?

Several companies offer microchips with the two most common being AVID® and HomeAgain®.

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