We know you do whatever you can to keep your pet safe. We also know accidents can happen. Safeguarding can be invaluable if your pet manages to slip away from your watchful eye.

Microchipping for pets is a quick, inexpensive, permanent way to help reunite lost pets with their worried families. With a quick and simple outpatient procedure, your pet will have a scannable way to identify your name, address, and phone number. Microchipping is a solution that can work for almost anyone with any budget, but there are a few misconceptions and little-known tips to be aware of to increase your chances of making the technology work for you.

Why should I microchip my pet?

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that over 30 percent of dogs and cats will become lost at some point in their lives. Microchipping significantly increases their chances of being reunited with their homes.

For all lost pets turned into shelters, 58 percent of microchipped dogs (compared to 22 percent overall) and 38 percent of microchipped cats (compared to 2 percent) will be returned to their families. Because rabies and registration tags can fall off or get caught during your pet’s travels, these tags are ultimately unreliable for identifying pets.

Microchipping has made a huge impact on reuniting pets with their families during disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and house fires. When there is no time or way to get back to your pet due to unforeseeable circumstances, often the only way to identify your pet among the hundreds or thousands of animals caught up in the disaster is via a microchip. The numbers are astounding, and the stories are incredible to hear from families that lost everything during a tragedy except for their beloved pet, who was reunited with them due to the proactive placement of a microchip.

Pet microchip infographic.

How is the microchip inserted?

The microchip is a tiny chip about the size of a grain of rice inserted between your pet’s shoulder blades, under the skin. Because the needle to insert the chip is bigger than a typical injection needle, your veterinarian may recommend a local anesthetic before the procedure, especially for cats and smaller dogs. Ideally, microchips are inserted during the first visit to the veterinarian. With an adorable new puppy or kitten, he will unlikely be reunited with you if lost. Many people will think your pet has been abandoned and decide to keep your precious new family member. With a permanent microchip, it will be easy to find and identify you as the pet parent, allowing a speedy reunion with your pet. The insertion of the chip takes only a few seconds, and typically there isn’t pain or discomfort to your pet after the procedure is over, and there is no recovery time needed.

How do microchips work?

The microchip is activated by a special scanner when it is waved over your pet’s back where the chip was inserted. Radio waves from the scanner let the chip transmit a unique identification code to the scanner. The code (number) is put into an online microchip database showing the name, address, and phone number you registered with the company. Almost all animal hospitals and shelters are equipped with scanners and will seek out the proper owner of the lost pet immediately. The most current universal scanners can detect chips from any company.

The main reason microchipping fails to reunite pets with families is that an owner has not properly registered the chip or provided the correct contact information. Please, please make sure your pet’s microchip is registered correctly as soon as it is inserted and updated every time you move or your contact information changes. At Harmony Animal Hospital, we take the responsibility to register your pet’s microchip for you at the time of insertion, and we also ask that you list us as the emergency contact since we have after-hours emergency contact numbers and can help ensure your pet is reunited with you anytime, day or night.

Microchips are not tracking devices. Unfortunately, the technology does not yet exist to allow microchips to act as GPS devices or LoJack. The only way to identify a pet as belonging to an owner is for a vet or shelter to scan the chip, enter the chip number into the database, and contact the chip company to find the owner’s information. Again, this is why it’s imperative to register your pet’s microchip number with the manufacturer of your pet’s chip and to update your information if you move or change phone numbers.

How much does microchipping for pets cost?

Though costs vary in different parts of the country, and even within regions, most microchipping procedures should be under $75, including the registration fee. Some microchip companies, such as HomeAgain, also offer yearly subscriptions to provide many added benefits, such as free calls to Animal Poison Control (regularly $65/call), a personal recovery coordinator to aid you in the search for your lost pet, and limited pet insurance provided if your pet is injured while lost. You can visit www.HomeAgain.com for more details. The subscriptions are optional, but once your pet is registered in the database, this is a lifelong membership with no additional fees.

Are there any drawbacks to microchipping?

Because microchips are not 100 percent foolproof, there have been reports of pets whose chips were not found on a scanner and who were eventually rehomed. However, with the universal scanner technology increasing regularly, the chances of this happening are becoming slimmer.

Microchipping can also potentially lead to a false sense of security. Be sure to keep your pet’s rabies and registration tags on his collar at all times, and always keep a close eye on your pet. It takes only a few seconds for a wily dog to jump a fence or a crafty cat to slip out a closing door.  

If you’re interested in microchipping your dog or cat or have questions about your pet’s existing microchip, call Harmony Animal Hospital of Apex!