Imagine this… your indoor cat who doesn’t wear a collar escapes out the front door left ajar by the men delivering your new furniture. Won’t ever happen to you? That is what I thought, until it happened to me in June. I was lucky enough to observe the escape and rescue my cat. But what about the dog that digs under the fence in the backyard and in the process of escape, his collar gets caught and slips off. Now he is without any form of identification and the chances that he will be returned to his owner are small.
The statistics are frightening: 1 in 3 pets will become lost in their lifetime and according to the American Humane Association, only 17% of lost dogs and 2% of lost cats ever find their way back home. Millions of pets are euthanized every year because their owners can’t be found in time. I recommend microchipping for every pet—it is the only permanent method of identification and is extremely helpful in the event your pet is lost. Remember ID tags can become lost; tattoos can smudge and become unreadable—only a microchip offers a permanent solution. Hundreds of thousands of pets have been returned to their owners using microchip technology. It is estimated that over 94% of lost pets that have a microchip are successfully reunited with their families.
A microchip is a computer chip about the size of a rice grain that stores an identification number and transmits that information to an appropriate scanning device. These scanning devices are available to all U.S. animal shelters and veterinary clinics. They are universal because they read multiple microchip frequencies sold by different microchip manufacturers. It is standard for all veterinary clinics and shelters to scan a lost pet when it is brought in. Alert your veterinarian if you will be traveling internationally with your pet as there may be a specific microchip that is best for your pet.
The process of microchipping is simple: microchips come pre-loaded in a syringe, your veterinarian inserts the needle under the skin between the shoulder blades and injects the chip, and voila, your pet has a microchip. The procedure takes less than 10 seconds and is only as painful as a vaccination injection. The chip must then be registered with the company who made the chip. Although your veterinarian’s information will be registered with the company, I also recommend registering your pet in your own name for faster notification when your lost pet has been found. There is a small additional annual fee for this but it is well worth it! Microchips are designed to last at least 25 years and do not need replacing.
Many pet owners are rightly concerned about the health safety of a permanently implanted microchip. Usually microchips are composed of silicon and encased in glass. The materials used are biocompatible—so rejection and infection are rare. There has been speculation that microchips could cause cancer at the site of implantation, however, there has been no proof of this in dogs and cats. At this time, I believe the risk of a pet being lost and possibly euthanized is much higher than any possible side effects from microchips.
During your pet’s annual veterinary visit, ask your vet to specifically test the microchip using the scanner—this will insure that the chip is still working properly. Also, confirm your pet’s information with the microchip manufacturer database every year. Keep your contact information current—you never know when you will need it!