The Problem with Microchipping

posted January 15th, 2010 by
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STORY BY JANA LAYTON, DVM,
RIVERBROOK ANIMAL HOSPITAL, TULSA

What would you do if your dog or cat accidentally got out of your home or yard? According to the American Humane Society, only about 17% of lost dogs and only 2% of lost cats ever find their way home to their original owners after being lost. Most of the animals that do return to their homes are identified with tags, tattoos or microchips.

Aside from providing your contact information, a collar with a nametag and phone number on it notifies others that the pet they have found does have an owner and a home, and therefore that person will be more likely to assist your pet in finding you. However, most tags can fade, rust, become scratched or even chewed on, making them difficult to read. Therefore, it is important to inspect these tags frequently and replace them with new, readable ones. Some veterinary hospitals will even re-issue a 3-year Rabies vaccination tag every year in order to keep it readable and to let people know that your pet does receive regular veterinary care and that a family is most likely missing their beloved pet.

Although collars and tags are very important to have on your pet, what if the collar gets torn or slips off and your pet is lost without immediate identification? This is where microchipping becomes even more important. A microchip is a tiny computer chip about the size of a grain of rice that a veterinarian injects under your pet’s skin, between the shoulder blades – much like giving a vaccination.
The chip contains a unique ID number that can be read by a microchip scanner at any veterinary hospital, shelter or humane society. This unique number can then be entered into a database to find a lost pet’s home and reunite them with their family.

Microchipping your pet is safe, reliable and permanent for the life of your pet. However, microchips are only as good as the information provided to the chip’s company. If you fail to register your pet’s microchip, or if you move or change your telephone number after you have registered a chip, it is as good as never having the microchip placed in your pet. According to a 2009 Journal of American Veterinary Medical Assoc i a ti on study of pets entering animal shelters, the return rates of 7,704 microchipped pets were reviewed. 876 of these pets could not be returned to their owners because of incorrect owner information listed in the database. In this study, shelter personnel contacted a microchip registry for 1,943 of the pets and found that only 58.1% of them were registered.

Microchipping can be an invaluable tool for pet identification allowing lost pets and their owners to be reunited. We in the veterinary community encourage you to be educated not only about the importance of microchipping your pet, but about making sure that your pet is actually registered and that your information in the database is kept current. Ask your veterinarian and their staff to teach you the necessary information to make sure you and your pet don’t get lost in the system. It can make the difference between life and death for your pet.

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