Every year, pets are lost and many wind up at nearby animal shelters. Despite the search efforts of loving pet owners, the chances of recovering a lost pet are unfortunately quite small. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, or AVMA, only 21.9 percent of dogs and 1.8 percent of cats at animal shelters are reunited with their owners if they don't have a microchip. However, if you microchip your pet, the chances of a reunion increase significantly to 52.2 percent of dogs and 38.5 percent of cats.
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Pet microchip FAQ
Microchips are a secure, reliable, unique, and permanent identification device. It is not a GPS tracking device and does not monitor your pet's whereabouts. It is a small electronic chip that is about the size of a grain of rice with a unique identification number assigned to your pet. When a microchipped pet is scanned with a microchip scanner, the microchip uses radio frequency identification technology, or RFID, to communicate with the scanner and the ID number appears, which in turn is matched to a database of pet owners' contact information.
Microchipping your pet is a two-step process. After the chip is implanted, you still need to register the microchip number with your contact information.
Registering the microchip
The microchip itself only carries a unique identification number, not your personal information, so you don't need to worry about privacy if your pet gets lost. Once implanted, you must register your pet's microchip in one of the national microchip databases for pet recovery such as HomeAgain, Petkey, or AKC Reunite with your contact information. This is the only way that you can be contacted if your missing pet is found.
If you move or change any or all of your contact information, it's vital that you update the microchip registry as well. Without a correct phone number, there is no way for a shelter or veterinarian to reunite you with your pet.
Permanent identification for pets
While you should continue to keep a collar on your furry friend with ID tags so that people can contact you if your pet gets lost. However, it is not uncommon for an animal to slip his collar, especially if he is lost for any length of time. Additionally, stolen pets will have their collars and identifying information removed intentionally.
A microchip is impossible to remove, so your pet can be identified and your ownership of him confirmed. Even with the best animal care, stolen pets will eventually need to see a veterinarian and many clinics routinely check for a microchip and can help to reunite you with your pet.
If you adopted your pet from a shelter or purchased him from a breeder, he may already have a microchip. You should carefully review your pet adoption paperwork, or have your pet scanned for a microchip at your next vet visit to reveal the unique microchip number, then make sure to register it.
Safe implantation method
Significantly improving your chances of recovering a lost or stolen pet is one of the primary benefits of microchipping. Fortunately, implanting a microchip is also a very safe procedure that can be done when you take your pet to the animal hospital for a routine visit. Many pets are microchipped at the same time they are neutered or spayed. The microchip is preloaded into a sterile applicator and injected under the loose skin between the shoulder blades. Similar to getting a vaccination, the procedure takes only a few seconds and does not require an anesthetic.
It is a good idea to have your vet scan your pet's microchip each year at his regular wellness appointment to make sure the chip is still working properly. Adverse reactions, such as the chip moving from the injection site, swelling, hair loss, and tumors, are possible but extremely rare. The British Small Animal Veterinary Association noted that only approximately 0.01 percent of dogs experienced an adverse reaction from microchipping.