Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Myths and Truths of Microchipping

FACT: Between six and eight million pets enter shelters every year. Of those, three to four million are euthanized (
FACT: Nearly three out of four pets that are microchipped are reunited with their owners ( ).


• MYTH: Microchips work like global positioning devices telling me my pet’s location
o TRUTH: Pet microchips are not tracking devices; rather, they provide permanent identification. Unlike a collar with tags, microchips cannot fall off, be removed, or become impossible to read. Microchips are radio-frequency identification (RFID). Each chip carries a unique number than can be read by a microchip scanner. The unique microchip number must be registered in a database along with the contact information of the pet owner. Registration is critical: if the pet gets lost and is taken to an animal shelter or veterinarian where it is scanned for a microchip, the unique microchip ID number will be used to retrieve the contact information of the pet’s owner.

Because they use RFID technology, microchips do not require a power source like a GPS. When the microchip scanner is passed over the pet, the microchip gets enough power from the scanner to transmit the chip's ID number. Since there's no battery and no moving parts, there's nothing to keep charged, wear out, or replace. The microchip will last your pet's lifetime.

• MYTH: My pet wears a collar and tag so there isn’t a need for a microchip.
o TRUTH: All pets should wear collar tags imprinted with their name and the phone number of their owner or veterinarian. Tags, though, may become worn and impossible to read, or they may slip off or be removed. A microchip is the only form of pet identification that is permanent, with a unique number that cannot be altered or removed. (

• MYTH: Having a microchip implanted will hurt my pet.
o TRUTH: Microchips are about the size of a grain of rice. Your veterinarian will implant the microchip in your pet. The procedure is simple and similar to administering a vaccine or a routine shot. The microchip comes preloaded in a sterile applicator and is injected under the loose skin between the shoulder blades. The process takes only a few seconds, and your pet will not react any more than he would to a vaccination. No anesthetic is required. (
• MYTH: Microchips are expensive.
Prices vary among veterinary clinics, but the average cost to have a microchip implanted by a veterinarian is around $45, which is a one-time fee and often includes registration in a pet recovery database. If your pet was adopted from a shelter or purchased from a breeder, your pet may already have a microchip. Consult your pet adoption paperwork, or have your pet scanned for a microchip at your next vet visit to reveal the unique microchip ID number and register it. ( )

• MYTH: Only dogs need to be microchipped; my cat doesn’t need one.
o TRUTH: Cats often do not wear collars. Their owners would be surprised to hear how often microchip companies recover “indoor only cats.” There are many ways a cat can escape to the outdoors: a delivery man could accidentally leave a door open, or storms could scare your cat to run away through a loose window screen. A recent study showed that less than 2% of cats without microchips were returned home. However, if a cat is microchipped, the return to owner rate is 20 times higher than if the cat was not microchipped. (

• MYTH: My contact information is contained in the chip and I’m worried about privacy issues.
o TRUTH: Microchips carry only a unique identification number. The pet owner’s information is not contained in the chip. However, owners need to register their contact information with the microchip ID number in a pet recovery database, which can easily be done online. If your pet gets lost, a veterinarian or shelter will scan the chip, contact the pet recovery company to look up the unique number in the database, and contact you. It is vital to register your contact information and keep it updated or the clinic/shelter will not be able to get in touch with you. ( &

• MYTH: I need to microchip my pet more than once.
o TRUTH: A microchip does not contain a battery so it will not wear out; the microchip will normally last the lifetime of your pet. Chips are composed of biocompatible materials that will not degenerate over the pet’s lifetime. Some microchips are equipped with anti-migration features that bond to the skin, ensuring the chip will not move once implanted. Owners can also check to make sure their pet’s chip is working by having a vet scan it during a regular checkup (

• MYTH: Having a microchip implanted gives my pet the best protection in the event he gets lost.
o TRUTH: If your pet is microchipped but the chip is not registered, your pet is not protected. Register your pet’s microchip in a national pet recovery database such as HomeAgain with your contact information so that you can be contacted when your lost pet is found. Only 58% of microchipped pets are ever registered in a database, leaving many other microchipped pets whose owners cannot be identified ( Make sure your pet’s microchip is registered with a national pet recovery service like HomeAgain, and keep your contact information up-to-date to give your pet the best chance of coming home if he gets lost.


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