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Microchips for Pets: Your FAQs Answered

Microchips for Pets: Your FAQs Answered
June 1, 2023

Drive around most any city and you’re sure to see those heart-tugging signs on telephone poles: “Lost Pet.” If you’ve ever lost a pet, even for a short time, you know the agony of not knowing what’s happened to them—and if you’ll ever see them again.

A microchip is the best way to be reunited with your pet if you ever become separated. But just what is a microchip? Read on to find the answer to this and many more common questions.

What is a microchip?

A microchip is a small electronic chip about the size of a grain of rice. A specially designed microchip scanner can then detect this microchip and read the ID number, which is assigned to the pet and owner and registered in a national database. 

How does my pet get a microchip?

Implanting a microchip under the loose skin between the shoulder blades is a simple procedure and can be done without anesthesia, though a pet is often microchipped when they are spayed or neutered. The chip is inserted using a hypodermic needle slightly larger than the ones used for vaccines. 

Even though the procedure is simple, the placement of the chip is very important to the success of the chip. If it’s not placed deep enough the chip may work itself out, while a chip implanted too deeply may not be readable to scanners. For this reason, having your pet microchipped by a professional is a must. A veterinarian or nurse technician is most qualified to do this.

After that, your pet is entered into the microchip registry with their own ID number that is associated with their microchip.

Why microchip?

Even if your furry companion is loyal and seems to never want to leave your side, accidents do happen. Someone leaves the door open and your pet wanders outside, a fence gate is left open, the pet becomes frightened and runs away in confusion—there are countless ways pets can become separated from us.

From there, pets could wind up in a Good Samaritan’s home or in a shelter. It’s easy to think that it will never happen, but the reality is that a staggering number of pets are lost in the shelter system each year because they lack any means by which to identify them.

But my pet wears a collar with an ID tag, isn’t that enough?

Traditional ID tags that hang from a collar are a first line of protection, and many pets are reunited with their owners just by a neighbor calling the number on the pet’s tag. However ID tags can easily become lost or removed from your pet. A microchip ensures your pet can be properly and quickly identified by a veterinarian or animal shelter, and reunited with you.

Will a microchip tell me where my pet is?

A microchip is not a GPS device with real time tracking abilities. Rather, it’s a Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) that doesn't require power, and it is easily identified by an animal shelter or veterinarian waving an RFID scanner across a pet's body where the microchip is located. The scanner reads an identification number, which is linked in a database to your information. Once the veterinarian or shelter has the chip's number, as well as the information about the company that the chip is registered with, they'll contact that company to find the pet's owner.

That’s why registration is so important—the microchip itself is useless if your registration isn't submitted and kept current. (That is why, at our practices, we register the chip for you at the time of microchipping.)

Does the microchip store my pet’s medical information?

No, the microchip itself only stores an identification number, however, with many microchip companies it’s possible to enter the pet’s medical information into your online account.

Will my privacy be compromised by a microchip?

Your privacy is protected by the microchip company. When the microchip scanner picks up the presence of a chip, it doesn’t show name, address, or contact information. It only provides an identification number registered with the chip's manufacturer. It’s that company that will contact you. This is why it is essential to make sure your registration information is kept up to date with that company. 

My pet is already microchipped, how do I find out who the company is?

If your pet is already microchipped but you don’t know the company, you can use the American Animal Hospital Association microchip lookup tool to find out where a chip is registered. Owners can then contact that company (via their website or phone number) to check that their information is up to date. If you don’t know the microchip number, many vets (including us!) will scan your pet at no charge. 

A microchip is your pet’s ticket home if they ever become separated from you. So if your pet isn’t already microchipped, or you haven’t updated your contact information after a change, ensure your best friend has the best possible chance of finding their way back into your loving arms.

Northeast Animal Hospital