One of the biggest fears pet owners face is their pet getting loose and running away. All pet owners should attach a name tag to their pets’ collars, with identification and phone number. This is fine as long as the collar stays on the animal. But, your pet could slip out of their collar while being walked or, if they start to run away, it could get caught on a bush and come off. Then when your pet is found, there wouldn’t be any way to get them back home.

This is why it’s important that your pet has a microchip.

Average Cost of Microchipping a Dog or Cat

The average cost of microchipping is $50.


How Does Microchipping Work?

A better way to keep your pet safe and to make sure they’re returned to you if they get lost is a microchip. This is an implantable chip about the size of a grain of rice. It contains an identification number unique to your pet, but doesn’t provide any medical history or contact information.

The microchip is actually a radio frequency identification transponder. When the chip is scanned by a shelter or a vet, the number is transmitted. There isn’t any power required to make it work, no battery, and it doesn’t have moving parts. The microchip is inserted between your pet’s shoulder blades under their loose skin. This procedure is done in your veterinarian’s office. There are three things that an owner must do once a pet is microchipped:

  1. Be sure that the microchip is registered in the manufacturer’s database. Include your cell number and landline (if you have one).
  2. Have your vet scan the microchip yearly to make sure it’s still working.
  3. Keep any changes in your pet’s information updated and current.

Advantages to microchipping your pet are many. Microchips are purchased at your vet’s office and the insertion process is quick. Once inserted, it can’t be lost unless it slips out, which is rare.

Microchipping Facts

There are many advantages to microchipping your pet. Here are some things to know about this process: The primary function of a microchip is so that it can be used if your pet runs away, if the other form of ID falls off or if your pet becomes lost. Unlike other traditional forms of identification, it will provide a stronger sense of security.

However, a microchip doesn’t work as a GPS does. A microchip can only be read and detected by special RFID scanners because they are designed using RFID technology. Veterinarians and animal shelters are usually the only ones who have these scanners. The microchip can be scanned anytime by a person who has the correct microchip reader. It emits a signal that can be scanned by a veterinarian or animal shelter that has the corresponding chip reader.

Keep in mind that not all microchips register on all readers. All microchips have different frequencies depending on the type of chip implanted in your pet. There are some universal chip readers, but not every veterinarian and animal shelter will have one of these. If a chip reader isn’t able to read the chip, it’s as if your pet doesn’t have one.

Does Microchipping Hurt Cats or Dogs?

The chip can be administered quickly and painlessly. Your pet won’t even need to be anesthetized, and it goes right between the loose skin on their shoulder blades. Once it’s in, your pet won’t even notice it being there.

Once the microchip is in place, there isn’t any maintenance or follow up. Plus, it only needs to be implanted once, and your vet will talk you through the process before inserting it. In rare cases, a chip can malfunction, but this doesn’t happen often. If the chip isn’t working, it can be detected by your veterinarian when scanned. They’ll know because the chip won’t emit its signal correctly.

A microchip can work up to twenty-five years, so there isn’t any maintenance you’ll have to do. However, if it’s been implanted in the wrong area, it can fall out of the injection site. When getting the chip embedded in your pet, discuss with your veterinarian the best spot for it to be placed. You’ll have to register your chip with a pet recovery base before it’s implanted. Every time you move, you’ll need to update the information on your pet. If you got your pet from a shelter, they probably already have a chip. Check to see if it’s registered, and make sure to update it with your information.

Very rarely, the microchip can cause cancer at the injection site. It’s not something to worry about, but still good to keep it in mind.

Microchip Companies

There are several different microchip companies. Here are some:

PetLInk: This is a pet recovery service that provides identification products for your pet. If your pet is lost and registered with this company, it can speed up recovery time for finding your pet. If your vet uses PetLink, your pets will be registered in the database online which makes them easier to find.

Avid Microchip: This company gives your pet a number and an identification chip. Their online database is called PETtrac. It’s a pet recovery network and has recovered over a million lost pets. The microchip number is linked to your phone number and home address when you enroll in this program. Almost all the animal shelters and vets in the US have an Avid scanner.

Home Again Microchip: These microchips don’t have an internal energy source, so are active the lifetime of your pet. The company provides you with identification services and products. These microchips can be read by a universal or standard scanner. They also have an anti-migration feature, meaning they won’t move from the injection site. When your pet is lost, someone will contact you through Home Again.

Here are two resources if you’ve lost a pet:

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA): AAHA has a universal lookup tool. It can access thousands of microchipping services across the US. AAHA can check a large database when a pet is lost.

24Hr Pet Watch: This is an organization similar to AAHA. It has access to over 1000 Animal Welfare Organization databases. It’s a pet protection service – when you register with the company, they assign a recovery specialist to work with you to find your pet. When the pet is located, and identification is confirmed, the pet protection service will contact you immediately.

Microchip Alternatives

While microchipping is the most effective method to ensure your pet won’t be list, there are alternatives. You can always rely on the pet’s collar and identification tag, which can have the name of your pet, your current address, and phone number. The problem with this method is if the collar is lost, people will assume your pet is a stray. If your pet is considered a stray, the person may keep your pet, or bring them to a shelter, you may not see them again.

A tattoo is another option that is popular. It has the benefits of a microchip and an identification tag. A dog tattoo is usually found on the stomach, inner leg or inner ear flap and has a unique identification number which is assigned to your pet. You will still have to register the tattoo and its identification code.

According to a study reported in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in July 2009, dogs without microchips were returned to their owners 21.9 percent of the time, whereas microchipped dogs were returned to their owners 52.2 percent of the time. Cats without microchips were united with their owners only 1.8 percent of the time, whereas microchipped cats were back home 38.5 percent of the time.

So at the end of the day, microchipping is the right choice! For safety and recovery, the odds are better with microchipping then with any other means of identification for your pet.