We all believe that our own pets will never run away – never get lost.
Yet, working in this animal hospital day-in-and-day-out, we know it happens.
It happens all the time.
Luckily, our neighborhood here in South San Jose is full of wonderful pet lovers who know to bring ‘found’ pets to us, or to a local animal shelter, to be scanned for a microchip. We always scan these pets, even if we recognize the pet (many of our staff members have been here a long time and are amazing at recognizing pets by sight). We breathe a collective sigh-of-relief when we locate a microchip.
Bottom line, microchips save lives!
According to statistics, of the millions of dogs and cats who end up in animal shelters, only about 16% – 22% of dogs and 2% of cats are reunited with their owners. However, for pets lucky enough to have a microchip, the statistics improve to 52% for dogs and 35% for cats.
Why wouldn’t you give your beloved pet the absolute best chance of making it back home again – or making it out of a shelter, at all? HomeAgain reports about 10,000 pets per month are reunited with their family because of the microchip and up-to-date contact information in the databases.
Even with the overwhelming statistics, we understand many pet parents still have questions and concerns about microchips.
In this blog article, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions in a Who, What, Where, When, How and Why format. Did we miss anything? If so, please let us know and we’ll gladly update this blog to reflect the most up-to-date relevant information.
Let’s begin with why:
Why should you have your pet dog or cat microchipped?
Because it is by far the best way to ensure your beloved pet is returned to you if ever separated from you.
We know you believe your pet will never run away – never get lost, but we also know it happens.
And it happens in a split second.
We’ve all heard stories about dogs who’ve escaped through an open gate or dug out under the fence when the owners weren’t home, but pets often become separated from their owners even when right there with them. Like Radar the French Bull Dog who busted clean through the screen door to chase a cat, or Bishop the Chi-weenie who “done jetted out the house” and was missing for over two months, or Wally the Miniature Schnauzer, who stepped on the power button of the backseat window, rolled it down and jumped out – while the vehicle was moving.
And it’s not just dogs that get excited and do crazy stunts; Sebastian the Siamese kitty, went busting through the glass of a second story window to get at … something down below in the back alley.
Luckily, Radar and Wally were wearing collars with I.D. tags and were quickly reunited with their families.
Bishop and Sebastian were not wearing their collars. Sebastian survived the broken glass and two-story free-fall. A good Samaritan scooped him up in a beach towel and took him to a local vet where they scanned him, found a chip, and notified the owner that Sebastian was scraped-up, but otherwise seemed okay. And if you watched the above video, you know that Bishop was found – thanks to his microchip – nearly 70 miles from home after missing for 2-1/2 months. Seventy. Miles.
Let’s be honest, we often remove our pets’ collars when we have them “safely” indoors.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as safely indoors because the statistics tell the real story of the millions of cats and dogs, who somehow end-up outside or in shelters, not wearing a collar with i.d. tags. A collar with tags is an important first step, but a microchip provides permanent identification that cannot be removed and won’t slip off – as is the case with collars and tags.
What is a microchip?
The microchips we are discussing here are very small (about the size of a grain of rice) circuits that contains a special frequency activated only by a microchip scanner. Once activated, the microchip sends a signal to the scanner to display the microchip number specific to that particular chip.
Your pet’s microchip is NOT a G.P.S. device. You cannot track your pet’s whereabouts through their microchip.
It is NOT constantly “on” sending out transmission signals or radio waves. It is activated only when the scanner is passed over the microchip.
It does NOT contain or display any of the owner’s information when scanned. The scanner usually displays only the microchip number.
How does it work?
The scanner activates and briefly powers the chip. The chip then sends back information to the scanner, and the scanner then displays the information on a small screen. Usually, just the microchip number is displayed on the small screen of the scanner. At this point, the microchip number can be keyed into a database (or into Google as with the Save-This-Life microchips we carry here at Story Road Animal Hospital) and the owner can be contacted.
Here is a video that better demonstrates it…
And while many veterinary clinics also note each pet’s microchip number in their own internal databases, vet clinics may not be open 24 hours a day everyday in order to crosscheck the scanned number of a found pet. This is another reason we really like the Save-This-Life system, if the pet is wearing a collar with the chip number on the tag – or if the pet is not wearing a collar and the chip number is found when scanned – either way – once the chip number is available, it can be keyed directly into Google search. How cool is that? Here is a video demonstrating the Save-This-Life system using Google to contact the owner.
It is imperative that you keep your contact information up to date in the database. Just having your pet microchipped is not enough. You must register your pet’s information in the accompanying database, then be sure to update the database if you ever move, get a new phone number, ‘go mobile’ and disconnect the landline, etc.
Who should implant a microchip into your pet?
Only a veterinarian or someone under the supervision of a veterinarian should implant a microchip into your pet.
When should you have your pet microchipped?
ASAP. There is no better time than right now.
Although it is ideal to have your pet microchipped when they are spayed or neutered (usually around 4-months old) because they are under anesthesia, it is not necessary to wait for an anesthetic procedure.
Most pets are microchipped while they are awake and most pets do just fine. It is rare for a pet to indicate there was pain associated with the injection. Most microchips come pre-loaded in a standard 22 gauge needle and syringe. This is very similar to a standard vaccine. If your pet does fine when they get their regular shots, then they will likely be fine when receiving their microchip injection. The benefits far outweigh the cost.
Where is the microchip implanted in a pet?
Just beneath the skin and in between their shoulder blades.
Wrapping-Up – The Three Most Important Steps
- Get I.D. identification tags for your pets and attach them to their collars. You can order pet i.d. tags online or go down to your local PetSmart where they have a kiosk – you can make your own right there on the spot. A properly fitted collar with I.D. tags is still the fastest way to ensure your pet can be returned to you.
- Get your pets microchipped ASAP. Once chipped, be sure to register their microchip number with your contact information. A microchip is the best way to ensure permanent identification.
- Keep your contact information up to date. Order new tags if you move or change your phone number. Tell your former veterinarian to note your new address and phone number in their database. Tell your new veterinarian to scan your pet and then enter the information into their database. Access the chip manufacturer’s database, and update your contact information there, as well.
In addition to your veterinarian’s database and the chip manufacturer’s database, some companies such as HomeAgain will allow you to register any manufacturer’s chip within their HomeAgain database. HomeAgain also offers a paid premium service that runs about $20 per year and allows you to upload your pet’s picture and note any special needs or medical alerts such as diabetes – needs insulin, or pancreatitis – needs a prescription diet, blind, deaf, etc…
Let’s all work together to ensure our beloved pets have the best chance of being reunited with us if they ever become separated from us.