There really is only one reason to microchip your pet, and that is to be able to find him if he runs off and gets lost or is stolen. Microchipping isn’t the only way to prevent your pet from getting lost forever, other methods include collars and tags, fencing in your property, and neutering your beloved pets to prevent them from wandering off. With so many options and methods available, could it be that adding a microchip to the list of preventions is unnecessary? In this article, we’ll discuss:
- What is a microchip and what microchipping involves
- Why you should microchip your pet
- Potential problems of microchipping
What is a microchip?
The procedure is performed by a vet where she inserts a microchip about the size of a grain of rice under the skin on the neck of your pet into the ligament using a needle. The whole ordeal takes about 20 seconds and it has been shown to be the most effective method in reuniting lost pets with their families (Lord LK, Wittum TE, Ferketich AK, et al. Search methods that owners use to find a lost dog. J Amer Vet Med Assoc 2007; 230: 211-216.). In this study animals without microchips had a mere 13% chance of finding their way back home while a microchipped pet had a 74% chance of being reunited with their owners.
Why you should microchip your pet
1 Microchipping is affordable
Technology comes at a price! And on all too many occasions the idea is discarded before any phone calls have been made or before any research has been done, for being ‘too expensive.’ The good news is that pet microchips are not on the list of expensive gadgets and can be done for an average cost of $45. When you consider that this is a once off expense plus the fact that many pet owners will spend on average $25,000 (this figure is based on research done by the Australian Veterinary Association) on a pet during its lifetime, the benefits seem to already outweigh the costs.
2 Microchipping is a reliable form of permanent identification
With the passing of the years the names and phone numbers on dog tags can get worn out, tattoos can fade, collars can get lost or slip off while your pet is in the act of escaping or, if someone is trying to steal your dog a collar is easily removed whereas a microchip, not so much! Combining a dog microchip with a collar and tag gives you an even better chance of finding your pet if she gets lost.
3 A microchip is easy to read
When inserting a pet microchip first became a big deal, they discovered a caveat which many people use in their argument against microchipping to this day. Microchips weren’t readable by all microchip scanners because of the different frequencies used by the various microchip manufacturers. If you are on the fence about microchipping you can confidently cross this off the ‘con’ list. The decision to create consistency in standards (using 134.2-kHz as the standard frequency) by the International Standards Organisation (ISO) encouraged the integration of universal (forward backward) scanners into the market. Since their introduction most vets and rescue operations use these types of scanners or at the very least have access to one.
4 Microchip databases are accessible 24/7 and 365 days a year
One of the points that have been made against microchipping is the lack of a central pet registry, instead, each microchip manufacturer has their own database. Australia has taken a huge step in providing a centralised database for all microchipped dogs and cats, putting this argument to rest. Registering your correct details with the pet registry and keeping it up to date shouldn’t be a life changing chore, but Lord et al found that of the microchipped pets that landed up in shelters only 58.1% of owners had actually bothered to take the next step in registering or maintain their information on the databases and went on to further recommend that a pet microchip should go hand in hand with registration, completing both steps in one fluid process.
5 Microchipping is a one-time lifelong solution
A microchip doesn’t wear out, they don’t need to be replaced and they don’t need maintenance. It’s simply a matter of insert, register your pet on the registry and basically forget about it. It has been advised to have your vet scan the microchip as part of your pet’s annual check-up, just to make sure that all is in order and that the microchip hasn’t migrated and become lost.
6 Microchipping is painless
It can be argued that having a needle thick enough to contain a grain of rice penetrate your pet’s skin can hardly be considered pain free. However, the pain lasts for the 20 seconds that it takes to insert the chip and compared to other forms of permanent identifications such as tattooing or branding, microchipping falls into the painless category.
7 Microchipping is the law
Though it is not law in all states (yet), in Southern Australia it is compulsory to microchip and register all dogs and cats in a central pet registry. Bear in mind that this means keeping your details up to date on both the manufacturer’s database as well.
Potential problems of microchipping
We live in a world where nothing is foolproof and that includes pet microchips as well. Complications include hair loss, migration of the chip (moving to other parts of the body), infection, tumours, and outright failure. A report (Personal communication, British Small Animal Veterinary Association, September 10, 2009.) in the United Kingdom following 3.7 million microchipped pets revealed that migration of the chip was the biggest issue with a total of 229 animals affected from 1996 to 2009. This translates to a microscopic percentage and the benefits clearly outweigh the possible complications.
While it is true that microchipping is not the only option for identifying your pet, nor is it 100%, it definitely comes out top when compared to the other available options. The microchip itself requires next to no maintenance however as a pet owner your responsibilities to register your details and keep them up to date are key when it comes to reuniting you with your lost cat or dog.