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Everything You Need to Know About Microchipping Your Pet

As many as one out of three pets will become lost in their lifetime. In fact, one dog or cat in the US goes missing every seven seconds. Those are some terrifying statistics, but there is good news!

Equipping your pet with a microchip means that you’re two and half times more likely to be reunited. 

There are even stories of lost pets being reunited with their owners years after they’ve gone missing and hundreds of miles away- all thanks to their microchip.

These tiny devices are amazing, but it’s natural that you may have some questions and concerns about inserting something permanently into your pet’s body. 

Here’s everything you need to know about microchipping your pet and ensuring that it functions correctly.

1. Microchipping is Quick and Easy

The microchip itself is about the size of a grain of rice. Your vet will insert the microchip just under the loose skin between your pet’s shoulder blades using a needle similar to the ones used to administer a vaccine. 

Your pet will feel a small pinch, much like getting a shot, but the whole thing will be over in seconds.

If you’re concerned about your pet experiencing even a tiny amount of discomfort, doctors at Bond Vet, a veterinary clinic based in Chelsea, NYC, recommend having the procedure done while your pet is already under anesthesia, such as during spaying or neutering or when he’s having his teeth cleaned.

2. A Microchip is Not a Tracking Device

A microchip is not the same thing as a GPS tracking device. It does not require a power source and it doesn’t transmit your pet’s location.

A microchip is a radio-frequency identification implant (RFID). It serves as a permanent form of identification for your pet. The chip contains your pet’s unique identification number, which can only be read with a microchip scanner.

3. Your Contact Information Is Not on the Chip Itself

Many people mistakenly believe that their contact information is on the chip itself, but that’s not the case. The chip only contains your pet’s unique identification number. 

A scanner is used to reveal the number and then the registry service is contacted to gain access to the contact information associated with your pet’s number.

4. Fill Out the Registration Completely

Be sure to fill out your pet’s microchip registration accurately and completely. Provide your work number, landline, and cell phone numbers if possible. 

The last thing you want is to miss a phone call about your lost pet because your cell phone died or is out of range.

Provide as many contact methods as you possibly can, including your email address, home address, and the phone numbers of family and friends whom you trust to pick up your pet if you can’t be reached.

5. Keep Your Registry Info Up To Date

Anytime you move or get a new phone number, make sure to contact your microchip registry and update your contact information. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how many people forget to do it. Without your current contact info, the chip is useless!

6. Microchips Can Move

As mentioned above, your vet will place the chip between your pet’s shoulder blades. Although the large muscles in the surrounding area usually keep the microchip in place, 

sometimes the chip can move if your pet’s muscles shrink or his skin becomes looser. When this happens, the chip can migrate to the animal’s lower back or side.

It’s a good idea to have your vet scan your pet’s chip during his annual exam. That way, they can ensure that the chip remains functional and that it hasn’t migrated to an area that makes it difficult to find. It only takes a moment and most vets will be happy to do it.

7. Microchips Must Be Scanned Properly

Although microchips are amazing little devices, there is a drawback. Scanning for a microchip requires the right scanner and proper training in how to use it. The user must know to check the animal’s back and sides just in case the chip has migrated.

And, not all scanners pick up all chips because some operate on different wavelengths. Only a universal scanner can pick up every type of chip, and they are quite expensive. 

If the user or scanner doesn’t pick up your pet’s chip, it will appear as though he’s never been chipped at all.

It might be worth calling around to the shelters in your area to see if they have a universal scanner. If not, consider having a fundraiser to help them get one.

8. A Microchip Doesn’t Replace an ID Tag

Your pet should still wear an identification tag on his collar or harness, even if he has a microchip. A dog who’s wearing a tag and collar is more likely to be recognized as a lost pet, rather than a stray. 

And, if your pet goes up to someone in your neighborhood, they’ll be able to contact you so you can be reunited with your baby right away.

9. Potential Risks and Side Effects are Extremely Minimal

The most common issue that people have with their pet’s microchip is migration. However, there have been reports of hair loss, swelling, infection, and tumor formation in very rare cases.

If you are concerned about risks and side effects, be sure to talk about them with your vet before the procedure.

The Bottom Line

As long as you keep your contact information up to date, equipping your pet with a microchip significantly increases your odds of being reunited if your pet becomes lost. 

There’s very little risk and the procedure itself is not expensive. It’s well worth it for your peace of mind, even if you never need it.

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