Dog Being Checked for a Microchip by a Vet | Taste of the Wild

All it takes is a split second: Your dog bolts out the door, your cat slips through an open window, or your pet dashes away from a campsite at the first crack of fireworks. Once they’re gone, what can you do? As part of Lost Pet Prevention Month, we’ll share how microchipping pets and other strategies can help bring your pet home.

Lost pets: the numbers

Up to 16 percent of dogs and 18 percent of cats in the United States are lost at least once during a typical 5-year span, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. About 71 to 83 percent of dogs are found. Cats don’t fare as well — only 53 to 75 percent of them are recovered.

Surprisingly, indoor-only cats are about as likely as outdoor cats to be lost, although they’re more apt to be found, according to an unpublished study. One reason is that indoor-only cats may be scared of the outdoors, so they’re probably hiding nearby.

But a microchip can make a difference: Microchipped dogs are twice as likely to be reunited with their owners and microchipped cats are twenty times more likely to be returned home, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

No one thinks their dog or cat will actually go missing. But in the event of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, a microchip can help ensure your pet is returned to you. If your pet is stolen, a microchip can serve as proof of ownership.

Finally, a lost pet that’s severely injured and delivered to a veterinary clinic by a good Samaritan may be euthanized if the owner can’t be located. Providing immediate identification with a registered microchip makes it more likely your pet will receive the care it needs.

What is a microchip?

About the size of a grain of rice, a microchip is a tiny transmitter that’s inserted under your pet’s skin. Because it can’t be lost or removed like collars and ID tags, it serves as a permanent form of identification for your pet.

When a scanner is passed over the body, it activates the microchip, which, in turn, uses passive radio frequency identification device (RFID) technology to transmit an identification number back to the scanner. The chip doesn’t include a battery or GPS device, and it contains only your pet’s unique identification number.

Personnel at the veterinary clinic or shelter reading the scanner refer to one of several microchip registries to obtain the contact information that is associated with your pet’s identification number.

How is a microchip implanted?

The chip is inserted under the skin with a wide-bore needle. It just takes a few seconds. Pets don’t need to be anesthetized for the procedure, although many people choose to have it done when their pets are being spayed or neutered to avoid the possibility of the pet feeling any pain from the needle.

Registering your microchip

The most critical part of the microchip procedure isn’t the chip implantation itself — it’s registration of the chip. That’s when you provide the microchip company with all pertinent information, including your pet’s name as well as your contact information and address.

That’s why it’s important to make sure to contact the microchip company any time you move or change phone number, so they have your most current information available. It’s also a good idea to ask your veterinarian to scan your pet’s microchip at annual exams to make sure it can still be detected.

Don’t forget ID tags

Even with a microchip, it helps to place an ID tag on your pet’s collar. Many pets are returned to their owners because a kind person called the number on the ID tag or delivered the pet to the address provided. This information can actually help get a lost pet home sooner if they are found in the evening when facilities that have microchip scanners are typically closed.

Hopefully, your dog or cat will never be lost. But if it is, a current, registered microchip and up-to-date ID tags can boost the chances of a very happy reunion.

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.