Summer is the time for relaxing in your yard, hosting BBQs, and marveling over fireworks. Unfortunately, it’s also a time of year when pets tend to go missing after they escape from their homes or yards. It only takes a split second for your pet to scoot out a gate left open by the gardener, or to dig under (or jump!) a fence when scared by fireworks.
For these reasons and more, we’re going to explore the world of pet microchips, and give you some tips to make them even more effective if your pet already has one.
Surveys show that one in three pets will go missing in their lifetimes, and The Humane Society of the United States estimates that only 2-5% of lost cats and 30% of missing dogs are ever reunited with their owners. But these numbers increase if the pet has a microchip.
In a study of animal shelters, 22% of dogs were reunited with their owners if not microchipped, compared to 52% that returned to their homes who were microchipped. And in cats, only 2% returned to their owners, compared to 39% who were microchipped.
It’s clear that pet microchips are a great way to increase the odds of a reunion with your pet should they become lost. But how do they work?
Microchips are tiny electronic devices that are implanted under your pet’s skin with a hypodermic needle in an outpatient procedure. When a scanner is passed over the skin, the microchip emits a tiny radio signal that transmits a unique identification number back to the scanner. The microchip company can then be called, locate your contact information based on your pet’s ID number, and call you with the location of your pet.
A microchip is not a GPS, but it is positive proof of ownership if your pet is ever lost.
Some owners are reluctant to microchip because they’re afraid it will hurt their pet. The microchip is about the size of a grain of rice. Implantation is quick, easy, and virtually painless (about the same as a vaccination). Of course, if your pet will be having general anesthesia for another purpose, such as a spay or a dental cleaning, we can place the microchip then, eliminating any discomfort at all.
There are a few things that you can do to be proactive in making your pet’s microchip work. Here are our tips:
Enroll the microchip – After the microchip is placed, you must enroll (register) it with your contact information, so that you can be contacted when your pet is found. Contact your microchip company and verify that your pet is, in fact, registered and the information is correct. If you move or change your phone number, you’ll need to update your information.
Scan it – At your preventive care exam, ask us to scan your pet to ensure that the microchip is working.
Universal scanners – Back when pet microchips were first introduced (in the 1990s), different companies used chips with different frequencies. This made it difficult for veterinary clinics and shelters, as they had to buy many scanners. Today, most microchip companies are moving toward the ISO standard of using 134.2-kHz frequency chips.
There is also a universal scanner that reads all pet microchip frequencies, and most veterinary hospitals and shelters have them. If your pet has a chip of a different frequency, it’s good to be aware of this so you can alert shelters in your area if your pet is lost.
Although this all may sound complicated, it’s really relatively easy.
Peace of mind – Unfortunate events do happen, but you’ll never need to worry if the unthinkable happens. Thunderstorms, fireworks, and backyard BBQs can all cause pets to go missing, but with a microchip, your pet has a greater chance of being returned to you.
They can never be lost – Unlike other forms of identification, such as a collar and tags, pet microchips can never fall off or be lost. They are a permanent and safe form of identification, and they never expire.
They save lives – In an emergency situation, there is not a veterinary staff member living who has not breathed a sigh of relief when hearing that telltale beep that lets us know a lost pet is microchipped.
Veterinary emergencies do happen, and if a lost pet brought to us in an emergency has a microchip, we can get in contact with you more quickly and proceed with medical care over and above basic life saving procedures.
It’s an undeniable fact that pet microchips have reunited hundreds of lost animals with their loving owners. They are simple to place, safe, and inexpensive. Contact us with any questions or concerns, and let us help keep your pet safe this summer and beyond!