August 15th is National 'Check the Chip' Day – a day organized by the American Veterinary Medical Association to remind pet parents to microchip their pets as well as check their registration information to ensure it’s up-to-date. If you have a new pet or just haven’t considered microchipping before you will understandably have a few questions, starting with what exactly a microchip is.
A microchip is a small electronic chip that is enclosed in a glass cylinder and inserted just under your pet’s skin. This may sound scary, but the microchip itself is the size of a grain of rice and the needle is only a bit larger than what is used in a normal injection. It’s also placed in the fleshy area between their shoulder blades at the base of their neck, so most pets don’t even flinch when it's inserted. Once your pet has a chip, you will be given instructions on how you can register it to an online database. This is where you’ll share your pet’s details and information on how you can be contacted if someone finds your pet.
Microchips are so small because they don’t need a battery to work. Instead, they’re activated when a scanner is passed over them. When the scanner successfully picks up the radio waves from the chip, it will display a number on the screen. This number corresponds with the registration you created when your pet first got the chip. Since the microchip itself doesn’t show any details about your pet or how to contact you, it’s important that you keep these up-to-date in the database it’s registered in.
There are so many reasons why your pet should be microchipped, but these are five of the most important:
1. It increases the chance of finding your pet if it gets lost: The biggest reason to get your pet microchipped is that there’s a greater chance they will be returned to you if they get lost. In a study of more than 7,700 animals that were brought into shelters, dogs with microchips were reunited with their owners 52.2% of the time, compared with 21.9% when not microchipped. For cats, these numbers are even more drastic, with 38.5% of microchipped cats successfully returning home, but only 1.8% of cats without microchips.
2. It offers peace of mind: If your pet does happen to escape or wander away from your home, a microchip is a piece of ID they are guaranteed to have with them. While microchips shouldn’t be used as a replacement for a collar and tag, they are a trusted backup in the event that a collar falls off or tags become illegible.
3. It’s inexpensive: When compared to your pet’s ongoing care, getting a microchip is a low, one-off cost. While the price will vary from clinic to clinic, the average cost is around $50, but if you adopt a pet, having them microchipped can sometimes be included in the adoption fee!
4. It reduces shelter workload: Unfortunately, shelters are often overwhelmed by the number of animals that pass through their doors each year. When pets are microchipped and their information is up-to-date, they can quickly reunite a lost pet with their pet parent. This reduces the amount of time shelter staff spend trying to locate a pet’s family and makes room for them to help more animals as soon as possible.
5. It can be used for more than just finding lost pets: Microchips can double as a “key” for many of the products they use daily. For example, if your dog or cat has a door flap, you can set it up to only open for their microchip. Similar technology also exists for bowls so you can keep your pet’s food separate – a lifesaver for multi-pet households!
If you’re ready to have your pet microchipped, all you need to do is schedule an appointment at your vet. As the microchipping process takes only seconds, it can easily be done as part of an upcoming appointment. Alternatively, you can schedule a short consultation specifically for it. If cost is an issue, reach out to rescues or shelters in your area. Many have microchipping events where they offer them to the community at little or no cost.
If you have more questions about microchipping, start by speaking to your veterinary team. The American Veterinary Medical Association has also put together a helpful Q&A that answers the top questions pet parents have about microchipping their pets.