How Do Pet Microchips Work?
The benefit of pet microchips is that they may ensure that you are reunited with your dog or cat if they get lost. Most pet owners that experience the loss of a pet believed that it would never happen to them. That is… until it does happen. Dogs and cats are adventurous creatures that may escape and run through an open door if the opportunity presents itself.
A common question asked by pet owners is, “How do pet microchips work?” We will review their functionality, range, and what to do when a pet gets lost.
How Do Pet Microchips Work?
A microchip is a radio-frequency identification (RFID) implant that stores information, such as a unique registration number. RFID was originally created as a Soviet-era espionage tool. Today, RFID technology is commonly used to identify pets.
RFID uses radio waves to send data between two devices: the chip and the scanner. The chip stores data only, and it does not transmit data. This is important, as microchips are commonly confused with chips that transmit data, such as GPS information.
The size of a chip is approximately the same size as a grain of rice. When a chip is implanted under the skin, a handheld scanner is waved over the location, which reads the radio frequency of the chip and displays this information on a screen (typically a registration code or number). Once this number or code is recorded, the chip company is contacted and given the registration number. The company will look up that number and share the contact information associated with that number, such as the name and phone number of the owner, so they can be contacted about their lost pet.
How Big a Range Do Pet Microchips Have?
Commonly, there is some owner confusion about the function of a microchip. A microchip is not the same thing as a GPS chip. A pet microchip is not a tracking device. It does not allow you to see where your pet is or track your pet and does not have a range.
On the other hand, GPS tracking devices that do allow you to track your pet are totally different from a microchip. GPS uses the Global Navigation Satellite System to provide tracking through a grid of satellites by exercising microwave signals that are transmitted to GPS devices. The GPS tracking provides information on location, time, direction, and speed.
It is important to make this distinction between an RFID microchip and a GPS tracker.
What Kind of Pets Can Get Microchips?
All kinds of pets can get microchips, including dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, exotic animals, and many more. The most common pets to get microchipped are cats and dogs.
What Happens When a Pet Gets Lost?
If your dog or cat escapes the yard or your home and is found, this is generally what happens:
- A lost pet may be found by a Good Samaritan, police officer, or an animal control officer. They will proceed to take the found pet to a local vet clinic, shelter, or humane society.
- The pet is generally examined to determine if there is a collar or tag on the pet that identifies the pet and the owner. If there is a tag and identification, that owner is contacted.
- If there is no tag on the pet, the pet is scanned with a handheld microchip scanner to determine if they have a chip. Once a chip is found, the code or registration number is displayed on the scanner screen. Learn more about scanners here: What is a Pet Microchip Scanner.
- At this point – there are two potential outcomes:
- The company that the chip is registered to is called to find out the owner’s contact information, including name, address, and phone number (if the chip is registered to the owner).
- If the chip is not registered to the owner and only to the shelter that placed the chip or a veterinary clinic, they will be contacted. If it is a weekend or holiday, there may not be anyone available to provide owner information until the next business day.
Recommendations for Pet Microchips
- All dogs and cats should be microchipped. Even those pets that do not venture outside may escape one day. You never know when the guy fixing your furnace or plumbing will leave the door open!
- Register your pet. This is critical to ensure the chip company has your name and phone number. It’s worth it, and there’s no cost when you create an account with 24Petwatch.
- Sign up for a Pet Protection Membership. For a one-time membership fee, the Lost Pet Recovery Specialists at 24Petwatch can help you start the process of finding your pet, coordinating a safe reunion, and relaying medical and behavioral information to shelters.
- Tags are still a necessity. Even if your dog or cat has a microchip, it is recommended that they also have a tag, including their name and your phone number, as well as an identifier on the tag that indicates the type of chip.
- Periodically test the chip. During your routine annual exams, ask your veterinarian to scan the chip to make sure it is still working.
- Update information regularly. Make sure the microchip company has your current contact information whenever it changes. You don’t want to lose a pet because you’ve moved, changed jobs, updated an email address, or switched phone numbers.
Have you wondered how much it costs to have a microchip placed in your dog or cat? Click here to learn more: All About the Pet Microchip: Is it Worth it?