What is a microchip? How does a microchip work? Why should you microchip your pet?

These are all questions that most people have about microchips, and we’ll answer all of them for you.

There are many misconceptions about microchips. A microchip is simply a small, about the size of a grain of rice, chip that when scanned has a unique number that is specific to only that chip. It is not GPS, and is not programmable to contain any personal information. Some microchip companies may have numbers and letters assigned to a chip, or just a series of numbers. With several different manufacturers of chips out there each company has come up with specific sequence that usually makes it pretty easy to decipher where the chip came from. It’s very important to know which company the chip is from. When a found pet with a chip is brought in and scanned we then call the manufacturer of that chip. After giving the operator at that company the number they can tell us who the pet is and the owner’s contact information. That is as long as the owner has registered their pet with that company. If for some reason the owner has not registered their pet and microchip the manufacturer can then track down which clinic or shelter they sent that chip to. We can then call that clinic or shelter to find out who they implanted with that particular chip. It saves time if a pet is registered with their chip. Plus, being able to go directly to contacting the owner helps because clinics and shelters may close down to for many reasons. If the place of implantation is no longer around there will be no other way to find your furry family member’s home. Some companies may charge to register your pet and their chip. Usually it’s a small fee, but once your contact information is in their system they will not delete it. If you move it is important to update your address and phone numbers with the microchip company.

With all that said, there are two types of chips. A regular chip in the United States has 9 digits. There is an international chip that contains 15 digits. The number of digits is the only difference. Other countries scanners will only read the 15 digit chips. If you are planning to travel or move overseas with your pet an international chip is required. If your pet already has a 9 digit chip it won’t hurt to also implant an international chip. It has become standard in the states that our scanners typically read both types of chips. So we only use the 15 digit chip at no extra cost.

Does microchip implantation hurt? What is involved in implanting a microchip?
The microchip is implanted just under the skin using a needle just like a vaccine. Though due to the size of the chip the needle is a little larger, but it is not any more painful than getting a vaccine is. In fact, animals don’t even usually flinch when being microchipped. Since it isn’t bothersome to get a chip there is no need to use anesthesia or sedatives. It only takes just a few seconds to implant a microchip. After the chip is placed they don’t even know it’s there.

So why is it best for your pet to be microchipped? Most people have identification tags on their pet’s collar, but it’s common for pets that get lost to lose their collars. Since the microchip is implanted under their skin it is impossible to lose it. Even if your pet is chipped we still recommend that an identification tag be placed on the collar. If your pet doesn’t lose its collar that can save time which can make for a more rapid safe return home relieving a lot of stress for you and your furry family member.

-Kristy Ritchie, CVT