No matter how careful we are with our pets, they can still get lost. For instance, they can sneak out a door or open window or scoot under a fence in the backyard. While there is no sure way to prevent your pet from getting lost, you can help make sure they are returned home with a microchip.
If you’re not sure if your pet was microchipped by a previous owner, you can ask your veterinarian to check for one at your next visit. You should also contact the microchip registration service and update it with your information.What is a microchip?
What is a microchip?
A microchip is a small device implanted under your pet’s skin. It emits a low radio frequency that can be read by a scanner to show a unique identification code. Most veterinarians and shelters have a universal scanner, which can read any kind of microchip.
The code can be called into the registration service associated with the microchip and used to look up the pet parent’s contact information. The service can then call the pet parent to let them know the pet has been recovered and help arrange for a happy reunion.
Pet Microchip Registration
Since a microchip only contains a code and not your contact information, it is essential that you register with the service that works with your pet’s microchip. It is just as important that you keep this information up-to-date so you can be reached if your pet is ever lost and recovered. Sometimes a chip can be traced back to the veterinarian who implanted it, and the pet parent may be located through their records, but you certainly wouldn’t want to count on this happening.
There are multiple microchip registration services, and each has their own separate databases. This can make it more difficult to find the pet parent of a microchipped pet since you have to know the correct service to contact. Fortunately, the Animal Hospital Association (AHA) has created a Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool (www.petmicrochiplookup.org) to help identify the service where a microchip is registered.
Should I microchip my dog?
Yes! In fact, our strategic partner the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) fully supports microchipping, stating that an implanted microchip combined with a visible ID tag on a dog’s collar is the most reliable way to help ensure the recovery of a lost dog. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) agrees and points to a study* that shows the difference a microchip can make for lost dogs:
- Dogs without microchips: Returned home 21.9% of the time
- Dogs with microchips: Returned home 52.2% of the time
In cases where microchipped dogs could not be returned home, it was usually because the microchip was not registered or the registration service did not have up-to-date contact information. This underscores the importance of setting up and updating information with a microchip registration service.
Should I microchip my cat?
Again, the answer is a wholehearted yes! The difference a microchip can make* for cats is even greater than for dogs:
- Cats without microchips: Returned home 1.8% of the time
- Cats with microchips: Returned home 38.5% of the time
Even indoor-only cats need to be microchipped because they can get out of the house unexpectedly. They may also be less able to find their way back home since they are unfamiliar with the surrounding area.
Does microchipping hurt?
Microchips are usually implanted under the loose skin between the shoulder blades through a needle. Your pet might feel a pinch like a vaccine shot, but it is quick and relatively painless with no anesthesia needed. Microchipping can be done during a routine veterinary visit or a scheduled procedure, like spaying or neutering.
The microchip is tiny—about the size of a grain of rice—so it’s not noticeable or painful after it’s implanted. It should stay in the same spot too since the tissue around the chip will typically bond to it within 24 hours. However, there have been some reported instances where the chip migrated to another part of the pet’s body. If you are concerned your pet’s microchip may have moved, contact your veterinarian.
Microchipping is also not dangerous for your pet. According to the American Veterinary Association of America (AVMA), there have only been a small number of cases where minor adverse effects such as hair loss or swelling were reported. Additionally, the AVMA notes that there have been three cases of tumors forming near an implantation site, but a direct link to the microchip was not proven. The benefits of microchipping far outweigh these uncommon risks.
How long does a microchip last?
Microchips are activated by the scanner and do not have a battery or other internal energy source. This means they will last the life of your pet and there is no need to replace them over time. However, it is important to keep your contact information up to date with your registration service.
Does a microchip replace a collar and ID tag?
Absolutely not. Even if your pet has a microchip, they still need to wear a well-fitting collar and ID tag with your current contact information. An ID tag lets someone who finds your pet get in touch with you quickly and easily. If your pet only has a microchip, that person will need to go to a veterinary practice or shelter where the microchip can be scanned, which can delay your pet’s return.
Lost Pet Tips
If your pal ever gets lost, don’t panic. There are steps you can take to help find your pet, such as:
- Check the house – Make sure your pet isn’t hiding somewhere in your home. Look everywhere, including in closets, under beds, behind furniture, and even up in the floorboards. Some cats will crawl up there to hunt small mice or stressful feelings may provoke them to seek the comfort of a confined space.
- Check the area – If your pet isn’t in the house, start searching your yard and neighborhood. Call out your pet’s name and shake a food dish or can of treats to help lure your pet out.
- Ask around – Talk to your neighbors and show them a photo of your pet to see if they spotted them anywhere. You can also call local shelters, animal control agencies, and veterinarians to see if your pet was reported or brought in anywhere.
- Spread the word– Post a photo and note about your missing pet on neighborhood message boards and social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter. You can also put up fliers, which should include a photo and description of your pet, your contact information, and details about where they went missing.
Stay positive and hopeful. Many pets are safely returned home, especially if they have a microchip and an ID tag on their collar. You can also download a free pet safety app from our strategic partner the ASPCA®, which includes a personalized missing pet recovery kit with the ability to create a digital lost pet flyer to share on social media instantly.
Found Pet Tips
It can be tough to know what to do when you come across an unfamiliar cat or dog. Are they a friendly lost pet? Are they a stray without a home? These tips can help you in this kind of situation:
- Be careful – If you have any concerns about approaching the pet, call the local animal control agency or shelter for assistance. Stay nearby if you can to help out when they get there.
- Be smart – You can intervene if you feel comfortable that the pet is friendly. For instance, try to coax them into your car, garage, or fenced in backyard where they can stay safe while you work on figuring out where they belong.
- Reach out – If the pet has an ID tag, you can contact the pet parents directly. If not, call your local shelter or even drive them there if you have a carrier to safely restrain them in your car. With any luck, the pet will have a microchip that can be read at the shelter and a happy reunion can be arranged.
The benefits of microchipping your pet can’t be emphasized enough. It’s stressful to lose a pet, but it can be reassuring to know that a microchip can help get them home to you. There really is no reason not to have it done, especially when you can get reimbursed for the cost of implantation. See your coverage options now.
* Source: https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/FAQs/Pages/Microchipping-of-animals-FAQ.aspx (Lord et al, JAVMA, July 15, 2009)
title: Microchipping and Lost Pet Prevention
author: Heather M.