Microchips are Gaining in Popularity
In 1997, a Lhasa apso named Lukee bolted from his yard in Los Angeles. That was the last his family saw of him. That is, until he was picked up by a local shelter in June 2001. Animal control officers ran a scanner over him when they picked him up. Nothing. With overcrowding approaching crisis proportions in Los Angeles, animal control officials prepared to euthanize the now seven-year-old dog. Following shelter policy, they ran another scan over the dog. This time they got a signal—this dog had an owner somewhere. The shelter contacted the microchip company, which keeps records of owners and contact information, apparently even after six years. They contacted the owners and the dog and family were reunited.
Some form of identification for your pet is vital. As a Tulsa veterinarian, I am all too familiar with sad stories of lost pets. Additionally, the pet overpopulation problem in our local shelters is largely attributable to stray pets without proper identification. Of the millions of dogs and cats euthanized in shelters around the country, an estimated 30 percent of them are lost pets whose owners cannot be found. Shelters only hold “stray” animals for a short time—sometimes only for a few days. Without identification, they are inevitably euthanized unless adopted out.
If your pet escapes, his best chance for return is proper identification. There are three main forms of identification: tags, tattoos, and microchips.
Pet ID Tags
There are two tags your dog should wear at all times: an ID tag stating your dog’s name and your phone number, and a license from the city or county in which you live. An ID tag can keep your dog’s time away from home short and sweet. If a neighbor finds him and calls your number, you can be reunited pronto. When vacationing with your dog, affix a temporary ID to his collar. You can securely tape a piece of paper with your local or cell phone number on it; or if you are in one location for an extended period, you can get a regular ID tag with your temporary or cell phone number on it.
Besides being required by law in most countries, a license can quickly reunite owner and dog if the dog is picked up by the animal control. Licensing your dog will save you sleepless nights and reduce the chances of your dog being euthanized or adopted before you find him. In agricultural communities, licensing has another benefit. Many counties require ranchers and farmers to notify animal control before shooting free-roaming dogs, even if they are harassing livestock. You can buy licenses through your city animal control office; ID tags are available through most major pet supply stores.
Because tags can be removed or lost, dogs should have at least one other form of identification—either a tattoo or a microchip.
A tattoo is one form of permanent identification that can be used with an ID tag. It consists of a series of numbers are registered with a national database. These numbers are tattooed on the inside flank of the dog or sometimes on the ear. Getting a tattoo is relatively painless for dogs and can be done at pet fairs, humane agencies, or through your veterinarian.
Animal control is required to attempt to contact the owners of dogs with tattoos before euthanizing them or placing them for adoption. Animal research facilities routinely check for tattoos as well. The downside to tattoos is that whoever finds your dog needs to know to look for one. Tattoos can also fade and become difficult to read.
Microchips have largely replaced the use of tattoos—they’re quick and easy to place. Like a tattoo, a microchip carries numeric information that is registered with a national database. About the size of a grain of rice, the microchip is inserted between the shoulder blades by a veterinarian. This should cause no more pain than receiving a shot, although many vets try to place microchips when dogs are already under anesthetic for spaying, neutering, or teeth cleaning. The microchip is so small that the dog never even knows it’s there. The chips have a life span of twenty-five years.
Most veterinarians, animal control offices, and animal shelters have handheld scanners that they use for checking incoming stray dogs. If a microchip is found, the registry is informed and the owner is contacted. As with tattoos, animal control and animal research facilities routinely check for microchips before a dog is euthanized, placed for adoption, or used for research. The negative aspect of microchips is that the person who finds your dog must take the dog to a local shelter or veterinarian to have him scanned. To alleviate this issue, most microchip companies provide a tag for your pet’s collar that indicates he is wearing a microchip.
The Mobile Pet Vet offers microchips with a lifetime registration included in the cost. As an added bonus, our microchips use 16 digit codes which are accepted worldwide. If you anticipate traveling abroad with your pet, you may be required to use a microchip with a 16 digit code for ID purposes.
8 Myths about Microchipping
- It requires surgery to implant a microchip in my dog. No anesthetic is required for a microchip implant. The procedure is performed at your veterinarian’s office and is simple and similar to administering a vaccine or a routine shot. The microchip comes preloaded in a sterile applicator and is injected under the loose skin between the shoulder blades. The process takes only a few seconds, and your pet will not react any more than he would to a vaccination.
- Pet microchips work like a GPS and tell me my pet’s location. Pet microchips are not tracking devices. They are radio-frequency identification (RFID) implants that provide permanent ID for your pet. Because they use RFID technology, microchips do not require a power source like a GPS. When a microchip scanner is passed over the pet, the microchip gets enough power from the scanner to transmit the microchip’s ID number. Since there’s no battery and no moving parts, there’s nothing to keep charged, wear out, or replace. The microchip will last your pet’s lifetime.
- My pet wears a collar with tags, so he doesn’t need a microchip. All pets should wear collar tags imprinted with their name and the phone number of their owner, but only a microchip provides permanent ID that cannot fall off, be removed, or become impossible to read.
- Microchips are expensive. The average cost to have a microchip implanted by a veterinarian is around $45, which is a one-time fee and often includes registration in a pet recovery database. If your pet was adopted from a shelter or purchased from a breeder, your pet may already have a microchip. Consult your pet adoption paperwork, or have your pet scanned for a microchip at your next vet visit to reveal the unique microchip ID number and register it.
- Only dogs, not cats, need to be microchipped. Both cats and dogs need to be microchipped. Cats often do not wear collars, and may not have any other form of ID. A recent study showed that less than 2 percent of cats without microchips were returned home. However, if a cat is microchipped, the return-to-owner rate is 20 times higher than if the cat was not microchipped.
- My contact information is contained in the chip, and anyone with a scanner can access it. Microchips carry only a unique identification number. If your pet gets lost and is taken to a vet clinic, or animal shelter, your pet will be scanned for a microchip to reveal his unique ID number. That number will be called into the pet recovery service, and you will be contacted using the contact information on file with your pet’s microchip. It is vital to keep your contact information up to date so that you can be reached!
- I need to microchip my pet more than once. A microchip will normally last the lifetime of your pet because it is composed of biocompatible materials that will not degenerate over time. Also, since microchips require no power source and have no moving parts, there’s nothing that can wear out and need to be replaced. Pet owners can also check to make sure their pet’s microchip is still working by asking a vet to scan it during their pet’s next checkup.
- Having a microchip gives a pet the only ID he needs if he gets lost. A microchip is only the first step! You must register your pet’s microchip to give your pet the best protection. Register your pet’s microchip in a national pet recovery database with your contact information, so you can be contacted when your lost pet is found. Also, remember to keep your contact information up to date whenever you move or change phone numbers. Additionally, combining a microchip with an up-to-date ID tag ensures that no matter who finds your pet, they can contact you so you are reunited with your pet as soon as possible.
Contact the Mobile Pet Vet today to learn more about equipping your pet with a microchip.