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Should you Microchip your Pet?

Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff
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Is your pet a "bolter?" Consider a microchip!

"I have a 'bolter,' " said Mark R., pet parent of Adriana, a Border Collie mix. "She has a collar with an ID on her when she's out, but gets so excited when we're about to go for a walk, she'll bolt through the door before I've got her collar on! I was so afraid she'd get lost and no one would be able to tell who she belonged to. I went to my veterinarian and she suggested (along with putting her collar and leash on before I even opened the door) that I have a microchip put into her. The procedure - if you can call it that - was so simple, I could hardly believe it. The best thing is that now I don't have to worry because Adriana will be able to be identified anytime, even should she slip her collar."

What are microchips?

A microchip is a permanent form of identification for pets. It is a small, implanted device that uses RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) technology to transmit its unique number to a special scanner that may be found at most veterinarians, local animal control centers, shelters, and even groomers. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, a microchip transmits its number to the scanner, which is then input into a computer to get information on the chip (and pet). Although each pet should also wear a collar with identification tags, microchips provide a way to identify your pet that is not removable and never wears off or becomes hard to read.

Quick Facts about microchips

  • Each microchip has a unique number.
  • Microchips are enclosed in a small, sterile tube similar in size to a piece of rice.
  • Microchips are injected under the loose skin between the pet's shoulder blades.
  • When a microchip is accessed, it leads to a registry that includes pertinent information about the pet, including identification of pet and owner, telephone number, and the pet's veterinarian.
  • Inserting a chip takes a quick visit to your veterinarian. It can be done during a routine visit, or during a special visit.
  • Pets can receive a chip as early as eight weeks of age.
  • If your pet was adopted from a shelter, or is from a breeder, she may already have a microchip. Ask for the registry information to update your new pet's chip with your current contact info.

How they work

Each microchip contains a unique number. The pet parent is given a form (or website) where he or she can enroll the pet's microchip identification number, pet name/description, and veterinarian contact information. This is either filled out at the agency or hospital where the microchip is placed, or the pet parent can fill out the information online. The information is then sent to the registration agency, generally the company that owns the chip.

How microchips are placed

After checking that the animal does not already have a chip, the veterinarian or technician injects the chip with a syringe, generally under the skin between the shoulder blades. It only takes a few seconds for this procedure. The procedure is similar to a vaccination, so no anesthetic is required. Once the chip is inserted, a test scan is performed to ensure the chip is operating correctly. It's that simple. The pet parent then goes home and registers the microchip with the registry. Some companies charge for this service, some do not.

Will it be noticeable?

Since the microchip has no power supply, battery, or moving parts, it cannot be felt by hand or by your pet. Once injected, the microchip is anchored in place as a thin layer of connective tissue forms around it. The chip requires no care. It does not pass through or out of the body.

Where can your pet get a microchip?

Microchips can be purchased and inserted by your veterinarian. By far, the easiest, best, and most inexpensive microchip can be purchased and inserted by any of 1100+ nationwide mobile Vetco® clinics (sorry, Florida mobile Vetcos do not offer microchips, but they are offered at Vetco's Tallahassee Wellness Clinic).

The difference in microchip manufacturers - 911PetChip™

Vetco utilizes a special chip from 911PetChip. Not only is it inexpensive, but registration is free - that's not always the case with many microchip companies. 911PetChip uses 256- or 512-bit memory microchips, with the latest in 3rd generation RFID technology, including enhanced reading distance and speed. According to 911PetChip, "over 50,000 vets and animal shelters across the country are equipped with scanners that can read your pet's microchip."

Registration is done by Vetco, or if you wish, you can do it yourself. At Vetco, the information is sent in to the registry at absolutely no cost. Or, if you wish, you can fill out the information on yourself. When you get your chip at Vetco, you will be given a card with a 15-digit registration number on it. You will need this to register and/or update your pet's information yourself. Plus, each 911PetChip from Vetco is also pre-registered with Vetco before it leaves the manufacturer. This is done in case the pet parent cannot register the chip right away, so it can be traced back to Vetco. Not all microchip companies do this.

What happens if I go on vacation or my family moves?

Information on Vetco's 911PetChip can be updated anytime on the website, for absolutely no cost. This is helpful if you move, or even if you go on vacation and will have an alternate number. Some companies charge a maintenance fee if you wish to change or update information, but 911PetChip does not. 911PetChip also tracks your pet's veterinarian, in case they have more up-to-date information.

Check your microchip at least once a year

August 15 of every year is National Check the Chip Day! More than a dozen microchip companies, including, the microchip company Vetco uses, participate in this event and encourage you not only to get your pet microchipped, but also to have it checked annually. Correct, current information dramatically increases the likelihood you will be reunited with your pet.

Remember, keeping your pet's information up-to-date is THE best way to ensure he or she is reunited with you quickly. Update your information anytime or use August 15 as your annual reminder to "Check the Chip!"

How long will my pet's microchip last?

A microchip is designed to work for over 20 years. At Vetco, it is guaranteed for the life of the pet.

Peace of mind

So, now Mark has one less thing to worry about if Adriana ever bolts again. If you have a "bolter," a pet that is at high risk for running, or any pet, a microchip is the solution to keep your mind at ease.

Veterinary Tip:

Consider having an ID tag with "I Have a Microchip from (your chip company's name)" on your pet's regular ID collar. Or place the company name and registration number on the tag. That way, if someone finds your pet, and she has her collar on, they'll know right away to scan for a microchip!

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