We have so many Good Samaritans that bring in dogs and cats that they have found running across the road or injured in their neighborhoods that have microchips, but that the contact info linked with that microchip is no longer current. My heart breaks when we can’t help find that pet’s owner who is probably frantically looking for their lost dog or cat.
Not only will a microchip help your dog who might sneak out of your backyard and take himself on an adventure, or your opportunistic cat who escapes past your house guest when she opens the front door, it will also help a pet lost during a natural disaster, or a terrified cat who runs out a broken window when a burglar breaks in.
How does a microchip work?
Microchipping dogs and cats is a simple procedure. A veterinarian or licensed veterinary technician simply injects the microchip, beneath the surface of your pet’s skin between the shoulder blades. Our new HomeAgain XS microchips are even smaller than a grain of rice. We often place microchips during puppy and kitten spay or neuter procedures, but can easily place microchips in awake animals during a doctor or technician appointment. It is very similar to a routine vaccine, only takes a few seconds, and no anesthetic is required.
The microchip is a permanent ID. When a lost pet is brought into our clinic, a scanner is used to read the ID number of the microchip, which has an alpha-numeric pattern unique to each microchip company. The chip itself has no internal energy source, so it typically lasts the life of your pet. It is read by passing a microchip scanner over the microchip. The scanner emits a low radio frequency that provides the power necessary to transmit the microchip’s unique ID code. Once we scan a chip and read the ID number, we can call the microchip company and find out what contact information is on file.
Unfortunately, not all microchips are registered, so no information is on file. In these sad cases, sometimes even pets with microchips may not be able to be returned to their owners. All pets microchipped at Gladstone Veterinary Clinic are automatically registered so that your information is stored in the microchip company’s database.
All microchip registration information is stored indefinitely. An annual fee is never required for a microchip company to keep your information on file. Some microchip companies charge a fee to update your contact information, but the small fee is very worth it, as outdated contact information won’t help your lost pet get back to you.
What should pet owners do to ensure microchip success?
- Always confirm that your pet’s microchip is registered and that your contact information is on file. Some veterinary clinics, feed stores, rescue groups, or shelters placing microchips may not automatically register the microchip to the owner, so ask, and double-check with the microchip company that your contact information is on file.
- Ask your veterinarian to scan your pet’s microchip annually. Chips rarely stop working, but they can sometimes migrate from the area between your pet’s shoulder blades to a spot over a shoulder, or even down by the elbow. Chips can be defective or come out during placement, which is why our veterinarians and technicians scan every chip before placing it and also scan every pet after we place a microchip.
- Check in with your pet’s microchip company annually to ensure that all contact information is current, and includes your cell phone number, an email address, and an alternate contact who lives outside of your geographic area (in case we experience a natural disaster in the Pacific Northwest). Pick a date that is easy for you to remember, like your pet’s birthday, or the day we switch to daylight savings time. An email contact will be critical in the event of a natural disaster, when phone service may not be available.
- Put your pet’s microchip ID tag on your pet’s collar. This information can help if your pet is found after hours since the person who found your pet won’t have to wait until their veterinary clinic is open to scan for a microchip.
- Update your contact information in the microchip registration database immediately after you move, change your phone number, or change your e-mail address.
Schedule an appointment to have your pet microchipped, or swing by to have us scan your pet’s microchip. We can help you contact your pet’s microchip company to update information. Give your pet the best chance of being reunited with you!