Microchips are tiny devices that are implanted under the skin of animals to help identify them. The microchip does not run on battery power or anything like that, so it will always be functional. It should be used along with a collar, ID tag and rabies tag, not in place of. These tags are the easiest, fastest way for any person to identify your pet. A microchip must be read by a special scanner at the vet’s office or animal control office, but it is always there even if the collar and tags come off. A microchip is not a tracking or GPS device; it can only be read by a scanning device.

What does a Microchip Do?

Microchip implants are placed for a number of reasons including:

  • To ensure safety and rediscovery of a lost pet
  • To keep track of livestock
  • To record the numbers and movements of exotic species for research
  • To keep down costs at shelters by finding owners of stray animals

Some pet doors can be programmed to recognize specific animals and prevent others from passing through. Feeders can be unlocked for specific cats’ microchips, preventing babies and other animals from getting into the food.

The microchip, about the size of a large grain of rice, uses passive RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology to provide permanent identification, including a special identification number. Microchips are now used by kennels, breeders, rescue groups, humane societies, farms, stables, and pet stores. While in the past similar information could be found on a tag on the animal's collar, an implanted chip is much more permanent. Since approximately half of all lost animals are found at shelters without a collar, the microchip implant provides peace of mind for the pet owner.

Will the Microchip Contain my Personal Information?

No. The scanner reads the chip and reports the animal’s unique identification number. The veterinarian or animal control officer who finds your lost pet would then call the microchip company, and their staff would be able to contact you based on the identification number. You provide the microchipping company with your contact information, which is protected.

The Microchip Implant Procedure

Before the implantation takes place, the owner first completes an enrollment form with chip identification number, owner contact information, pet name and description, shelter or veterinarian contact information, and an alternate emergency contact. The form is then sent to a registry. For a fee, the registry typically provides location service for the life of the pet or for a maximum of 25 years.

The implanting procedure is much like receiving a routine vaccination, and, once implanted, the chip cannot be felt. No anesthetic is required.

Microchips are always inserted through injections under loose skin, though their location on the body varies according to species. Microchips are implanted in cats and dogs on the back of the neck, in birds in the breast muscles and in horses on the left side of the neck. Each chip also has an anti-migration cap that prevents its movement within the body. The information on the chip can be read with the use of a hand-held scanner available at most veterinary practices or animal shelters. A test scan ensures precision.

Thanks to this new technology, retrieving missing, lost or stolen pets has become easier than ever before.

It is also important that animal owners relying on microchip implants keep their contact information up to date since, if they move, for example, and forget to notify the microchip company, their contact information will no longer be helpful in locating them.

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American Veterinary Medical Association World Small Animal Veterinary Association AAVMC