It’s every pet owner’s worst fear: Your gardener left the back gate open and your dog got out while you weren’t home. Maybe your child left the front door ajar and your cat scooted out. Or, perhaps your area was hit with a natural disaster and your pet became separated from the family.
Scary situations for a pet owner — especially if your pet loses his collar or his ID tag information is outdated or worn away.
The good news: If your pet is microchipped, there’s a better chance he’ll return home safely. More than 1,000 calls are placed everyday by veterinary hospitals, humane societies and animal shelters who are using the microchip to reunite pets with their owners.
WHAT IS A MICROCHIP?
A microchip is a tiny computer chip — about the size of a grain of rice — that is implanted by an injection similar to a vaccine needle under the skin of your pet. Anesthesia is not necessary and most animals don’t feel the injection, which is done by a veterinarian.
The chip is made of an inert, bio-compatible material that will not disintegrate, rust or cause an allergic reaction. It also won’t relocate from its point of injection which, in cats and dogs, is usually between the shoulder blades.
The chip doesn’t have a power source or a battery; it’s activated by a short Radio wave that can be read by a scanner, so it lasts throughout your pet’s lifetime.
Birds, reptiles, horses and other animals can also be microchipped.
HOW DOES A MICROCHIP WORK?
Each chip has a unique code. When read under a hand-held scanner, the code will appear on the screen. The code is then entered into the manufacturer’s database and, if you have registered your information directly with the manufacturer, your pet will be connected to you. If you have not registered your pet with the microchip company, than the code is linked to the hospital, shelter, rescue or humane society that implanted it. The microchip does not have your personal information coded on it.
Most veterinarians and shelters have scanners. If your information in the database has not been updated (for example, you moved and did not change your contact information), then the veterinarian or shelter that implanted the microchip will be notified.
Many shelters and rescue organizations microchip 100% of adopted pets. So, if you adopt a pet with a microchip, immediately contact the company that made the microchip (AVID and HomeAgain are the most common) and register your pet on their database. This is a very important step in reuniting with your pet quickly.
HOW EXPENSIVE IS A MICROCHIP?
While a microchip requires no maintenance, it can cost between $30 to $45 to be implanted. Some companies charge an additional fee to register your contact information on the database.
IS THERE A DOWNSIDE TO A MICROCHIP?
The microchip industry is proprietary, which means each manufacturer maintains its own database; a national registry does not yet exist. However, microchip scanners display the name of the microchip’s manufacturer when the microchip is read. The likelihood that your pet cannot be identified from its microchip is therefore very low.
The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) and The Humane Society, among others, are pushing for a universal scanner. Currently, a shelter or veterinarian’s office must have four different scanners to ensure it can read every code — if they can afford to buy the scanners.
Check with your veterinary hospital and local shelters to make sure they have scanners to read your pet’s chip.
THE BEST WAY TO PROTECT YOUR PET
Don’t rely on any one method to identify your pet. Make sure your pet wears a durable collar with up-to-date contact information on his identification tags.
A microchip is a permanent level of protection and could make the difference in whether or not you are reunited with your pet.
Millions of pets are microchipped in the U.S., and millions more have received the implant worldwide. It’s a safe and trusted method to bring your pet home again.