Caitlin UltimoHealth / Pet Safety & Injury Prevention

How a Pet Microchip Works and Why It’s Worth It

Contributed by Dr. Alison Birken, owner and DVM of Victoria Park Animal Hospital.

How a Pet Microchip Can Protect Your Pet

Nothing is more heartbreaking than when a client loses their pet. We run a veterinary clinic in a busy city, so we often receive reports of lost pets. Pet microchips are an easy way to help pet parents find their pets in case they lose them. Because of this, I consistently urge my clients to microchip their pets.

Despite their importance, many pet parents are not familiar with pet microchips. So I would like to take a moment to discuss microchips, how they work and all the benefits they provide.

What Are Pet Microchips?

A pet microchip is a small computer chip that veterinarians implant under your pet’s skin. The microchip contains a unique identification number for your pet that links to your address and contact information. When you find a pet and take them to a shelter or vet, they will check for a microchip. They wave a scanner over your pet’s microchip, which displays the unique identification number. Once they receive the identification number, your veterinarian can access a large database of all pet microchip numbers, and identify the rightful owner. In order for a microchip to work, you will need to register the microchip and keep your contact information up to date. Always remember to update your information and provide multiple emergency contacts in case you lose your pet while you are out of town.

How Does My Pet Get a Microchip?

Veterinarians implant pet microchips under the pet’s skin, between the shoulder blades. The microchip is implanted using a needle and syringe that contains the microchip. Once the needle is inserted under the skin, the microchip is injected, and the needle is removed. The procedure to microchip your pet is simple, noninvasive and similar to giving an injection, such as a vaccination.

How Much Does a Pet Microchip Cost?

There are a few different manufacturers for microchips, so I am not aware of all microchipping costs. However, microchips are generally inexpensive and easy to administer. I charge $65 at my animal hospital for a microchip. All pets from shelters or rescues will be microchipped already, which means the microchipping costs are already in the adoption fee. It is important to make sure you update the microchip database with your current information as soon as possible—preferably the day of adoption.

What Is the Best Brand of Microchip?

There are many manufacturers of pet microchips, and your veterinarian is the best resource for a recommendation on brands. At my animal hospital, I carry a brand of microchip that can be read by most scanners on the market. Before you microchip your pet, you can do some research and call around to local shelters and ask which microchips their scanners can read.

What Are the Benefits of Microchipping My Pet?

The benefits of microchipping are undeniable. Microchips reunite hundreds of pets with their families. They are an easy, inexpensive and non-invasive way to make sure you can find a lost pet. Microchips can never break or fall off, unlike collars and ID tags. I always encourage all pet parents to have their pets microchipped.

If My Pet Is Microchipped, Does He Need a Tag, Too?

Yes. I recommend that your pet have a tag in addition to a microchip. It is important to understand the difference between a tag and a microchip. A microchip is only part of your pet’s identification system. Your pet should have a dog collar (if he or she is a cat, it should be a breakaway collar) with tags on it. A microchip can only be detected if it is scanned. Collars and tags are easily identifiable with your name, phone number and address so that someone can immediately contact you if your pet is found. I love the Platinum Pet Pawsitively Safe Pet Finder Tag for dogs and cats, Thunder Cover Dog Tag Silencer and Nite Ize SpotLit LED Collar Light.

Does the U.S. Use a Different Frequency Chip Than Other Countries?

Owning a small animal clinic in Fort Lauderdale, a hub for travel and tourism, this is a common question I receive. Yes, Europe uses a 134.2 kilohertz chip and the U.S. uses 125 and 128 kilohertz chips. Some companies are now implanting the European frequency chips, and there are scanners that can pick up all three. Most importantly, make sure your local shelters can read the microchip you choose. If you are traveling abroad, it is imperative that you check with the country’s requirements. Many countries have strict regulations for traveling abroad with your pets and require a specific microchip and time when it is implanted.

I hope this article helps to clarify what microchips are and how you can microchip your pet, and gives you an idea of microchipping costs. With up to 8 million animals ending up in shelters annually, I cannot emphasize enough the importance and benefits of pet microchips. This is especially important during the holiday season, as pets are commonly lost during this time of year. By giving your pet a microchip, you are giving yourself and your pet the best chance for a reunion if they ever become lost.

Alison Birken bio

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