A tiny chip the size of a piece of rice could be the difference between finding your beloved lost pet and never seeing him again. If your pet is brought into a shelter, there is a chance he could even be put down if he’s not reunited with you or adopted fast enough.
Although chips are not GPS devices, they are your best chance at being reunited with your lost pet. Yet surprisingly, the majority of dogs coming into shelters aren’t micro-chipped. Dr. Katie Kangas works for the San Diego Department of Animal Services (SDDAC) and says 90% of the dogs that come in are lacking a chip.
“I see so many animals that clearly have owners and homes, but they became lost or displaced,” Dr. Kangas explains.
“Statistics show that every few seconds a pet is lost and 1 in 3 pets will be lost at some point in their lifetime.”
With staggering statistics like that, it’s a wonder why people don’t microchip their pets and keep those chips up to date. In honor of Check Your Chip Day, Dr. Kangas is helping outline the reasons we should.
Minimal Risk of Chips
There is very little risk of micro-chipping your pet. Despite recent online reports to the contrary, there is virtually no risk of complications such as leaking toxins or microchips becoming dislodged.
Dr. Kangas breaks down both these myths:
- Leaking Toxins: “In rare circumstances, a cat or dog may have a ‘reaction’ to the microchip being implanted, and this may lead to infection or inflammation at the site of implant, which is usually done over the shoulder blades,” Dr. Kangas explains. “In over 15 years of shelter work, I have only seen a handful of animals with significant problems from a microchip implant, and of these, one or two cats required surgical removal of the chip. My suspicion is there was either bacteria or some other contaminant which was inadvertently implanted or associated with the chip.”
- Dislodged Chips: This is another remote possibly but would usually occur just after implantation. “This would be due to insufficient technique,” Dr. Kangas says. “These chips will not become dislodged at a later time, provided they were implanted correctly.”
Dr. Kangas adds some movement of the chip is not uncommon and not cause for concern.
“Occasionally the chips migrate, probably with gravity, down to the side of the shoulders or the flank area,” Dr. Kangas explains. “For this reason, most people that are scanning pets now are moving the scanners over the whole body of the pet and not just at the neck.”
Although there are DIY chips on the market, Dr. Kangas does not recommend this route.
“There is too much risk for error and complications to occur,” Dr. Kangas explains. “It’s a bad idea.”
When you microchip your pet, you are putting on a permanent collar and also getting a network of support.
For example, the SDDAC uses AVID brand chips and gives adopters a prepaid registration for PETTrac recovery service, which bundles microchip implantation and registration together. The registration goes into a national database that links the owner’s information to the ID number of the pet’s microchip. PETTrac provides support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
But you don’t have to use AVID or PETTrac for your chip to be scanned.
“Scanners used at most shelters are now ‘universal’ scanners that can read chips of different brands or companies,” Dr. Kangas explains. “All shelters and veterinary hospitals now have scanners and they scan every incoming animal to check for ID—animal officers now carry scanners so they can scan animals ‘in the field’ to look for ID before taking them into the shelter.”
There are so many stories of dogs being reunited with their owners after months or even years away, thanks to their microchips—read some of those success stories here.
Update Your Chip
Even this author is guilty of it—not updating personal information with the microchip service. Although it’s a relatively easy process, sometimes procrastinating pet parents (like me!) don’t update their address or more importantly, their phone number. This can be done online or over the phone with your microchipping service, which is typically provided with rescued animals.
You should also provide a alternate contact, such as a relative, as a backup in case you cannot be contacted or again, your information changes.
“The veterinarian who implanted the microchip is also listed, so this is another avenue to locate a pet owner,” Dr. Kangas adds.
Keep in mind the company your dog is first chipped and registered with will be yours for his life, so choose wisely! Make sure you are okay with their annual fees per dog, which you must pay if you need to update your address or phone number. Even if you try to register your chip with another company like PETTrac – which only charges a one-time lifetime fee for up to three dogs – the new company will still have to call the original company to get your information when your pet’s chip is scanned, which defeats the purpose if the information is outdated.
The Bottom Line
Microchipping your pet is a simple way to have peace of mind in case your beloved pet is lost, but make sure you keep the information up-to-date with the company.
“After 15 years experience as a shelter veterinarian, I am a huge advocate of microchipping,” Dr. Kangas says. “Even if your pet is the type that would ‘never leave the yard,’ there are many unforeseen circumstances that can cause fear and anxiety, such as fireworks, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, or even construction or other workmen entering your home. I have seen it reunite so many lost pets to their loving families.”
Travel plans? Next time you leave town, find a dog sitter who’ll treat your dog like family. Rover’s got you covered with loving dog sitters across the U.S. including Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Oakland, Orlando, and your city.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Top image via Flickr/Beth