We've all seen the heartwarming reunions online and on TV: cats and dogs joyfully jumping into the arms of their grateful owners after having gone missing for months, or even years!
The sad reality, though, is that only a relatively small percentage of pets that go missing ever make their way back home again.
Every year, 10 million cats and dogs are either lost or stolen, estimates the American Humane Association. In fact, one in three pets will become lost in their lifetime. This staggering statistic is indeed tragic, but a lost or stolen pet's chance of being reunited with their family exponentially increases when they receive a microchip implant — a secure, reliable, unique, and permanent pet-identification device.
What is a microchip?
A tiny marvel of technology, a microchip implant is a semiconductor about the size of a large grain of rice that provides permanent identification for your pet. Also known as an "identifying integrated circuit" the chip itself is encased in glass, thus not in direct contact with your pet. Several manufacturers produce microchips, but they all are composed of biocompatible materials that will not degenerate over time, giving your pet a lifetime of protection.
When a microchipped pet is scanned with a microchip scanner, the microchip uses radio frequency identification technology to communicate with the scanner and the identification number appears, which in turn is matched to a database of pet owners' contact information. Consequently, microchipping your pet is a two-step process with registration in the database being the key component. Surprisingly, though, Petfinder reports that only 58% of microchipped pets' owners register their contact information in the database.
What microchips don't do
You may wonder if microchips track your pet's whereabouts like global positioning device do, but no, microchips are radio-frequency identity implants offering your pet a permanent means to be identified, and only consist of a unique I.D. number. Nothing more, nothing less, just a tiny chip that will increase the odds that you get your pet back home if he's lost or stolen.
The benefits of microchipping
Wandering the mean streets of America's big cities or roaming the countryside, lost cats and dogs end up dodging predators of the animal and human kind, and much more. Once-pampered pets who lived in the lap of luxury suddenly find they have to fend for themselves when they are lost, depending on the kindness of strangers for handouts, and their zero to limited survival skills to make it out alive.
This is the sad fate of dogs and cats left loose outside on their own in an unfenced area who follow their instinct to explore. Unfortunately, millions get lost and wind up hit by cars, scrounging for food, and living a life of desperation, all inevitably destined for a tragic end. That is, unless a poster or social media campaign finds them and brings them home—or they are microchipped.
And not only do millions of pets get lost every year; stolen pets are a growing concern. From slipping unnoticed out a door accidentally left ajar into the hands of an opportunistic thief, snatched from the backyard, grabbed outside a store where they were tethered or unwitting victims trapped inside a car that is stolen, dogs and cats are vanishing due to theft at an alarming rate, even in broad daylight. Last Chance for Animals, a nonprofit based in Los Angeles, estimates that two million pets are stolen every year in the United States and one million in Canada.
Scouring the streets looking for a pet who's gone missing, plastering posters everywhere, and searching shelters is heartbreaking for pet parents, and so often futile. But the good news is that the return-to-owner rate for microchipped dogs in shelters was over 52% in a study published by the American Veterinary Medical Association. That's a whopping 238% increase over dogs that were not microchipped. Pretty impressive!
The bottom line is that microchipping your pet will give you peace of mind knowing that if she ever goes missing, there's an excellent chance you will be reunited. Not only shelters, but also many kind, concerned pet lovers everywhere are familiar with pet microchip implants and will visit a vet or other microchip-scanning resource to have the animal scanned for a microchip. And if one is found, they'll check the database, and do everything in their power to return that pet to her rightful owner.
How much does microchipping cost?
Not many procedures at your vet's office are a breeze for your dog, or you, for that matter. Needless to say, your pocketbook gets a real workout every time you step into their practice. Well, in contrast to most procedures, microchipping your pet is not only a piece of cake for your dog or cat, it's easy on your budget, too.
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 I.D. number, then make sure to register it.
Prices to have a microchip implanted do vary, but the average price to microchip your pet is around $45. It's a one–time fee and many microchip services include registration in one of the many pet-recovery databases.
Does microchipping hurt my pet?
In addition to cost, you may worry that getting a microchip will hurt your dog or cat. However, implanting a microchip in your pet is what many routine veterinary services should ideally be but often are not: affordable, painless, and non-invasive. Performed in your veterinarian's office with no need for an anesthetic, the microchip is preloaded into a sterile applicator and injected under the loose skin between the shoulder blades. There's nothing to it and the procedure takes only a few seconds — kind of like getting a vaccination, a microchip implant is that simple and quick. Many pets are microchipped at the same time they are neutered or spayed.
Once implanted, you must register your pet's microchip in a national pet recovery database such as HomeAgain, Petkey, or Pet Chip Registry with your contact information so in the event your pet goes missing, you can be contacted when your pet is found.
Basic tips for microchipped pets
It's a wise idea to have your vet scan your pet's microchip occasionally to ensure it's working optimally.
If you move or change any or all of your contact information, it's vital that you update the microchip registry as well.
Remember to register your microchipped pet in a database, and be among the 42% of mindful pet owners who do so. After all, you paid for the implant and registering in a bona fide microchip registry is the only way a microchip can really do its job to help bring your canine or feline family member back home safe and sound if they are ever lost or stolen.