Having your dog microchipped is an integral part of responsible and loving care for your pet. Microchipped dogs who become separated from their human families and end up at shelters are more than twice as likely to be reunited with their people as dogs who are not microchipped.
What happens to dogs who are not microchipped? They are more likely not to be returned to their original families and in some cases even euthanized because a new family does not adopt the lost pet from a shelter. Still, only a small fraction of dogs are microchipped in the US. (compared to 94 percent of dogs in the UK). It’s unfortunate, particularly because microchipping a dog is so easy.
How Microchipping Works
A microchip is about the size of a grain of rice, and a veterinarian inserts it under a dog’s skin with a hypodermic needle. It’s very similar to giving a dog a shot. Once that’s done, you register your dog’s chip with the company that manufactured it. The vet will give you the information you need, and the sign up can be done online.
Then, if the dog gets lost, the shelter, veterinary clinic, or animal control facility where the dog is brought can scan the chip with a special wand. The scan will reveal the chip’s identification number, and a call to the microchipping company can match the number with the contact information you have provided. Presto — you and your dog will be reunited. There are now even some national databases that aggregate ID numbers from different microchip companies.
Your Dog Still Needs an ID Tag
You might think a microchip replaces an ID tag. It does not. “Nothing replaces a collar with up-to-date identification tags,” says the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). That’s because if your dog has a visible ID, the chances are much better that he will never end up at a shelter, even temporarily. Someone can simply read the contact information on the tag and call the person immediately to come get their pet. Problem solved. A collar with your phone number etched onto it is even better than a metal tag, which can become snagged on a branch or some other object and then come off. But sometimes a dog gets out of the house — or away from you — without the collar on, which is why the microchip serves as a reliable backup.
Keep Information Current
Too many owners change their addresses — or phone numbers — but forget to update the corresponding info with their microchipping company. Or a dog is rehomed, and the new family does not change the contact information.
The microchip in your dog is only as good as the identifying information that goes with the number. The AVMA and the American Animal Hospital Association have designated August 15 National Check the Chip Day. But why not get a leg up and confirm the contact information associated with your dog’s microchip today — or make an appointment to have your dog chipped before the next Check the Chip Day comes around? In the unlikely and unfortunate instance that your dog becomes separated from you, it can literally keep her alive.
Reprinted with permission from Your Dog, a publication of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.
A version of this article appeared in our partner magazine, Inside Your Dog’s Mind, in 2022.
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