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Microchipping Your Pet

Each year, 6 to 8 million pets end up in shelters in the United States1. In fact, one in three pets will go missing during their lifetime2. With the recent flooding in Louisiana, we have experienced this on a tremendous scale. Hundreds of dogs and cats are now separated from their owners, and –  while some will find their way back to their original families – many will not.

Every week, we receive animals found by local Good Samaritans. We check for identification and look through matching pets in our database, but we often end up with no way to identify the owner. This problem can easily be prevented by microchipping.

What is a microchip?

A microchip is a tiny transponder, about the size of a grain of rice, that is encoded with a unique identification number. The microchip is not a GPS, does not use batteries, and becomes energized by a microchip scanner. The microchip is permanent and will last the life of the pet. Each microchip has a unique identification number encoded into its integrated circuit. When enrolled in a pet recovery service, this number links the pet to the owner’s contact information. Some companies such as AVID have been providing this technology as early as 1985.

How is the microchip put into my pet?

Before insertion, the sterile microchip is scanned in the package to confirm that the identification code of the transponder is the same as that shown on the package bar code label.

The needle containing the microchip is loaded into the application gun or syringe, and the pet is positioned for the injection. Microchips are typically injected between the shoulder blades with a syringe. The procedure is similar to receiving a vaccination through a needle and most pets don’t even react when the microchip is injected.

After insertion, the pet is scanned to ensure that the chip is reading properly.

Does it hurt to insert the chip?

“…appears to be relatively pain-free…”

The procedure is fast, safe, and appears to be relatively pain-free in most pets.  The chips are usually inserted without incident, even in the tiniest kittens and puppies. The application needle is quite large, and so we generally offer to have implanted at the time of sterilization (spay/neuter) so that the pet can be anesthetized for the injection.  However, this is not necessary, and the microchip can be implanted at any time that is convenient.

Is there anything else I have to do?

Yes! Once your pet is microchipped, you must register him or her with the appropriate agency. Your veterinarian will provide you with the relevant documents and contact information and will tell you if any fees are required. Failure to register your pet’s microchip identification will render the entire process useless.

“If you move or change your contact information, be sure to update your pet’s microchip information.”

If you move or change your contact information, be sure to update your pet’s microchip information. If your pet is lost and recovered, this information is necessary to reunite you with your pet.

How is the microchip detected?

The microchip can be ‘read’ with a microchip scanner, which detects the specific electronic code embedded in the chip, and displays the identification number on the scanner’s screen.

Since the occasional microchip may migrate, or move out of position, the microchip reader will be passed over the entire body of the pet in order to ensure that the chip will be detected if present.

“Most, if not all, humane societies and animal shelters now have universal microchip readers, and routinely scan all stray and injured animals.”

Most, if not all, humane societies and animal shelters now have universal microchip readers, and routinely scan all stray and injured animals.  Steps are being taken to standardize the readers and develop databases that can be readily accessed.

Are there any other concerns about the safety of microchips in dogs?

In 2007, several news articles were published, implying that microchips cause cancer. The information was based on research with mice and rats that were genetically bred for their predisposition to developing cancer. No documented cases that link microchips to cancer in dogs exist, and there is no foundation in scientific fact to supports this link. Millions of dogs have microchip identification implants without any reported problems.

My dog always wears a collar with identification tags.  Isn’t this enough?

Unfortunately, collars can break, fall off, or be removed.  When identification tags are new, they are easy to read.  However, as they get old and worn, it can become challenging to make out all the information that is on them.

My dog has a tattoo already.  Why should I microchip him?

Unfortunately, tattoos can be very difficult to read.  They are commonly placed in the flank area, where they can become obscured by hair.  Even when they are in the ears, they can become faded over time, and the numbers and letters can become unreadable. They can also be readily altered. Even when they are readable, the information about the pet and its owner can be difficult to obtain since there are no common databases for this information.

“Microchips cannot be misread, and the identification number is tamper-proof.”

Microchips cannot be misread, and the identification number is tamper-proof.  The information about the pet and owner is usually readily retrievable from the database.

My pet has a microchip, but I’m not sure if I registered it (or if the information is still correct).

There are dozens of services that allow you to register a microchip. If you know your pet’s microchip number, we recommend checking the registration on AAHA’s Universal Microchip Locator and AVID’s PETtrac. Almost all microchips (if registered!) can be located on one of these sites.


  • “HSUS Pet Overpopulation Estimates.” The Humane Society of the United States. N.p., 23 2009. Web. 24 Oct 2012.
  • “Microchipping 101.” Avid, Inc.
  • Some material © Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license. Original article.

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