Although it’s hard to think about your beloved pet becoming lost, the reality is that pets go missing every day. According to an American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals study, 15% of dog and cat owners reported losing a pet during the past five years. Should the unthinkable happen, and your canine companion or feline friend slips through an open door, a microchip can improve your chances of a happy reunion.

What is a microchip for pets?

While your pet may lose her collar and identification tag, a microchip is a permanent identification form that will last her entire life. About the size of a grain of rice, a microchip is a radio-frequency identification (RFID) device that does not require a power source or charger. A microchip scanner passed over the RFID activates the microchip to transmit its unique identification number, which is displayed on the scanner’s digital screen. A microchip is not a global positioning device and cannot be used to track your pet’s position. 

How is a microchip placed in my pet?

Microchip placement is a simple procedure that your trusted family veterinarian can perform during a routine office visit. The manufacturer supplies the microchip pre-loaded into a sterile syringe with a needle, which the veterinarian or veterinary nurse will quickly inject under the skin over your pet’s shoulders while she is distracted by a team member. Although the needle is a little larger than most, placement causes minimal discomfort, and is well-tolerated by most pets without sedation or anesthesia. After placement, you will not be able to feel your pet’s microchip, and it should cause her no discomfort. The microchip will stay in your pet for her entire life and never wear out, since it has no battery or moving parts. 

What should I do after my pet is microchipped?

A microchip’s presence supplies your pet with a unique identification number that has no meaning until you register your contact information. After placement, you must contact the microchip manufacturing company to add your information to their database. Registration can typically be completed via telephone or online. The microchip company will collect only your phone number and home and email addresses, and will not share your information. A small, one-time fee may be required.

How will a microchip help if my pet gets lost?

If your lost pet shows up at a shelter, a staff member will scan her back to check for a microchip. Most veterinary clinics also have a scanner, and will routinely scan new pets to ensure an owner  is not missing them. Once an identification number is obtained, a shelter or veterinary team member will alert the microchip company that your pet has been found. A microchip company representative will then contact you to arrange a reunion. 

What can I do to prevent my pet from getting lost?

Although having a microchip greatly increases your lost pet’s chance of return, we know that you don’t want to risk losing her. Follow these tips to keep your pet safely in your possession:

  • Identify your pet — Keep a collar and an identification tag on your pet at all times. If your pet wanders into your neighbor’s yard, an identification tag will allow her to be guided quickly back home. 
  • Tag your pet — Some microchips come with a tag that can be placed on your pet’s collar to alert her rescuer to the microchip’s presence. Adding this tag to her collar may mean that she will be scanned earlier and returned to you more quickly. 
  • Do not let your pet wander — Never let your pet out to roam—only let her explore in your fenced-in yard. Your fence should be tall enough that she cannot jump or climb over, and you should walk its perimeter frequently to look for places your pet can slip through. 
  • Leash your pet — Confine your pet to a leash whenever she is outside your home or fenced-in yard. The most well-behaved dog will forget her training if something particularly tempting catches her eye.
  • Teach your pet to obey — Teach your pet basic commands so if she does run off, you can prompt her to stop and stay and you can retrieve her. 
  • Keep your pet away from the party — When you are entertaining houseguests, restrict your pet to a quiet room so she can’t sneak out an open door. Provide a special treat, such as a hollow toy filled with peanut butter, plenty of toys, and her favorite blanket or pet bed to keep her entertained. 

Your family veterinarian can likely microchip your pet, but contact us if you need our help.