How Do Pet Microchips Work?

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how do pet microchips work

The benefit of having your pet microchipped is to ensure that you are reunited with your dog or cat in the case your pet is lost. Most pet owners that experience the loss of a pet believe that would never happen to them. That is…until it does happen. Dogs and cats are adventurous creatures that will often escape and run through an open door if the opportunity exists.

Some pet owners consider microchips for their pet and want to know more. A common question is “how do pet microchips work?” We will review how pet microchips work and how they can help you find your pet.

How Do Pet Microchips Work To Help You Find Your Pet?

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 used commonly to identify pets.

RFID uses radio waves to send data between two devices, the chip, and the scanner. The chip stores data only. The chip 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 size of a grain of rice. When a chip is implanted under the skin, a handheld scanner is waved over the skin which reads the radio frequency of the chip and displays this information on a screen which is often 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.

Have you wondered if a pet microchip is right for you? Learn more – Should You Use a Dog Microchip? or Microchipping for Your Cat’s Safety.

How Big A Range Microchips Have?

There is 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 but are totally different from a microchip. GPS uses the Global Navigation Satellite System to provide tracking using 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 which include dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, exotic animals, and many more. The most common pets that get chips are dogs and cats.

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:

  • The lost pet may be found by a Good Samaritan, police officer, or an animal control officer. They 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 he or she has a chip. If a chip is found, the code or registration number is displayed on the scanner screen. Learn more about What is a Pet Microchip Scanner here.
  • At this point – two possible things will happen.
    the company that the chip is registered to is called to find out the owner’s contact information that often includes the name, address, and phone number. If the chip is registered to you, your information will be provided.
  • If the chip is not registered to you and only to the shelter that placed the chip or your veterinary clinic, they will be contacted. If it is a weekend or holiday, there may not be someone available to provide the owner information until the next business day.

Pet Microchip Recommendations

The following are recommended for microchipping:

  • It is recommended that all dogs and cats 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. This may require that you pay an additional fee but that is worth it!
  • Even if your dog or cat has a microchip, it is recommended that your pet also have a tag that has his 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.
  • On an annual basis, make sure the microchip company has your correct information. People move, change jobs, get different emails, and phone numbers. Make sure this information is up to date!

Have you wondered how much it costs to have a microchip placed in your dog or cat? All About the Pet Microchip: Is it Worth it?

What Kind of Pet Microchip You Should Choose

Several companies offer microchips with the two most common being AVID® and HomeAgain®. Ask your veterinarian for their recommendation.

Additional Articles that May Be of Interest About How Pet Microchips Work

All About the Pet Microchip: Is it Worth it?
Should You Use a Dog Microchip? 
Microchipping for Your Cat’s Safety
What is a Pet Microchip Scanner? 
What is Pet Insurance?
How Does Pet Insurance Work?
When is the Best Time to Get Pet Insurance for Your Cat?
Questions To Ask When Choosing A New Vet
How to Have a Trauma-Free Veterinary Visit for Your Cat

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