You’re enjoying a beautiful walk with your dog, but at the street corner you see the poster pinned to the telephone pole: LOST. The canine face staring out at you tugs at your heartstrings and you feel closer to your canine companion than ever. You wish you could help.
It could never happen to your dog…right?
Sadly, petfinder.com and other websites report that one in every three pets will become lost at some point in their life. Those aren’t great odds, and anything that helps locate your dog seems worth the expense. Posters rarely yield results, and even ID tags with phone numbers might come off. Fortunately we live in a time and place where microchip implants provide the most reliable solution in case of crisis.
Helpful tips about microchips
About the size of a grain of rice, microchips provide the best hope for a lost dog to be found.
- Implantation isn’t difficult. Your dog probably already gets shots at the vet, and implantation uses a syringe that fixes the chip between the shoulder blades. No anesthesia required. Does it feel great? Of course not, but just like when you have blood drawn at the doctor, it’s well worth it.
- DIY versus professional implantation. There are home kits for implantation, but we’d recommend trusting your vet or the shelter with the procedure for best results. It usually costs between $40-$55.
- Once in a lifetime experience. Most chips last the lifetime of your dog or up to 25 years.
- Risk outweighs risk. As with getting any shot or minor surgery—dog or human—there is a minor risk of complication. But instances of tumors or other infections due to the chip seem to be about one in a million—much better than the one in three chance your dog will get lost at some point.
- Technophobes rest easy. Your dog will not develop cyborg traits or become a canine terminator. The government won’t control your dog with the chip. Cut down on your science fiction intake.
All that and a bag of (micro) chips
How does this technology work if your dog gets lost?
Information, not geo-location. Perhaps someday technology will let us pull up location on our iPhones or Droids via GPS, but current technology allows chips to be scanned by any shelter or veterinarian to which your lost dog is taken. Most facilities are equipped with scanners for that purpose.
- Identification number. Each chip has a unique identifier so when your dog is scanned, the matching pet recovery service can be contacted. There are over a dozen of these services available in the U.S. and often times the shelter or veterinarian will connect you when you get the chip.
- It’s your call. Many recovery services like PetLink offer 24-hour contact for the life of your pet for a one-time or annual fee. This means, however, that you have to keep your information current! Dog lovers need to remember this important issue when changing phone numbers, addresses, emails, etc.
Microchipping your dog—should you do it?
You keep your canine companion indoors, safe, secure: is this really necessary?
- Even the most responsible dog lover can’t control everything. Someone else may break a hole in your fence, or into your house. A house fire or natural disaster may separate you from your four-legged friend. A microchip doesn’t suggest anything negative about your canine care: it simply shows how much you care.
- Do the numbers. Lost dogs without microchips face about a 22% return rate. Dogs with microchips have a 52% return rate. Life decisions aren’t always about math, but this equation speaks for itself. If you could more than double the chances for a tearful, lick-filled reunion, wouldn’t you?
- Check and double-check. If you adopt a pet that has been previously microchipped, have the vet or shelter determine the accompanying registry and contact them to update new ownership and information. And remember: technology isn’t perfect. Have your chip scanned during check-ups with your vet to make sure it’s functioning correctly.
- Don’t delay: almost half of dog owners (42%) who opt for the microchip neglect to go into the recovery database of their provider and properly fill out their registry. Be a responsible dog lover and don’t procrastinate.
One of a dog lover’s greatest fears is that the poster on the corner might someday frame a picture of our beloved pet. Even if you beat the odds and never experience that missing moment, you’ll sleep easier knowing you’ve done everything in your power to protect the one you love.
Top photo via Flickr/Noël Zia Lee