Veterinarian microchipping a dog.

It’s National Microchip Your Pet Month

Every year, hundreds of dogs and cats stray too far from their homes. Until fairly recently, pet lovers had no choice but to wait and hope for lost pets to return. Collars and ID tags can help, but they’re far from perfect. According to “The Dog Whisperer” César Millán, just around 1 in 5 dogs find their way back home thanks to standard identification alone.

Microchipping can help. To commemorate National Microchip Your Pet Month, we’re sharing information and care tips on this essential technology.

What Is a Microchip?

Pet microchips are tiny electronic identification devices that a veterinarian or pet shelter can implant just under your pet’s skin. About the size of a grain of rice, they’re typically implanted between a pet’s shoulder blades or on the back of their neck.

Each microchip has a unique identification number. You’ll need to register this number with a recovery service. When you report your dog lost, this service will access microchip databases in an attempt to locate them. Make sure to include as much contact information as possible — you don’t want to miss out on good news.

The American Kennel Club notes that microchips are not tracking devices, at least not in the strictest sense. They are, instead, used in conjunction with GPS devices. While GPS trackers can help pinpoint the location of a lost dog or cat, only a microchip includes the information necessary to get them back home.

Benefits of Microchipping

While microchipping is not mandatory in the United States, all pet lovers should seriously consider giving themselves this extra piece of mind. Here are just a few of the reasons pet parents choose to have their cats and dogs microchipped:

Microchipping Is Simple

Installing a microchip takes just a few seconds and the procedure is practically painless. It’s not much different than having your pet vaccinated and could prove nearly as important to their well being.

Microchipping Is Inexpensive

César Millán writes that your average veterinary practice or animal shelter will only charge around $45 to implant a microchip in your dog or cat. That’s a tiny price to pay to ensure they can always be found.

Microchipping Is Effective

You can expect a single microchip to last throughout the entirety of your dog’s lifetime. While they don’t provide a guarantee, Millán reports that more than 50% of lost, microchipped dogs are ultimately reunited to their owners.

Extra Care

Great as they are, microchips are not without their shortcomings. Dogtime reminds pet parents that they can occasionally lead to confusion. There are, for example, two different types of microchips on the market. If a veterinarian or shelter does not have the right scanner to read your pet’s microchip, then it’s effectively useless. Universal scanners exist, but there are no universal microchips and, even worse, no universal registry of microchipped dogs.

To ensure your microchip works effectively, take care to ask your pet healthcare provider what types of microchips and scanners they use. If you move, make sure to update your contact information in the microchip registry and confirm that your vet or shelter has the technology they’ll need. Lastly, the AKC recommends choosing your recovery service carefully. Their own service, AKC Reunite, is compatible with multiple technologies and provides access to a series of databases. While a microchip alone can go a long way in helping reunite pets and their owners, it’s on us to use the technology correctly.