Should You Microchip Your Pet?

March 29, 2023

Microchipping your pet is a safe, inexpensive, and simple way to help them find their way home in case of accidental separation. Although microchipping does have limitations, it is still an essential tool in the toolbox of responsible pet ownership.   

What Is a Pet Microchip? 

Pet microchips are glass-encased electronic chips, about the same size as a grain of rice. Also called transponders, pet microchips aren’t large enough to store complex information. 

Instead, most contain only an ID number and sometimes the phone number of a corresponding registry. The most recent generation of chips can also give veterinarians your pet’s body temperature without the need for the dreaded rectal thermometer.

Microchipping a cat or dog is a simple procedure that doesn’t require an anesthetic. Instead, vets use a hollow needle to insert the microchip under the skin, between the shoulder blades. It’s no more painful than a standard injection and is an easy way to help your animal companion find their way home if they are ever lost.


How Does a Pet Microchip Work? 

Pet microchips do not have a battery or require any outside power source. Instead, the pet microchip gives off a specific radio frequency that special handheld scanners can read. Most animal shelters and vet offices, including Ballantyne Veterinary Clinic in Charlotte, NC, have these scanners on hand.

The microchip transmits a unique ID number to the scanner. The vet or shelter can search for the ID number in a registry database to find the contact information affiliated with it.  

Different brands of microchips sometimes give off different frequencies, which can cause problems if the scanner cannot pick up on a wide enough frequency range. As a result, the International Standards Organization (ISO) has approved and recommended microchips that broadcast at 134.2 kHz.


Benefits of Microchipping Your Pet

image-from-rawpixel-id-5905879-jpegNo matter how careful a pet owner is, unforeseen circumstances can still arise. One in three pets will become separated from their family at some point in their lives. Microchipping a cat or dog can significantly increase the likelihood of it being reunited with its owner. 

Microchipping is a permanent procedure, and pet microchips bond with the tissue under the skin within 24 hours of insertion. Unlike a collar or tags, which may snap or fall off, a microchip stays inside an animal’s body and is unlikely to malfunction. The chip may migrate slightly, but vets are trained to scan the pet’s entire body.

According to the American Kennel Club Reunite program, microchipped pets are up to 20 times more likely to be reunited with their owners than non-microchipped pets. 

Another study examining the reunion rates of more than 7,700 stray animals in 23 states showed that microchipped dogs are reunited with their owners at double the rate of non-microchipped dogs. For microchipped cats, the difference was even more significant. 


Important Considerations When Microchipping Your Pet

Pet microchipping is a powerful tool, but it has its limits. For example, a pet microchip doesn’t contain a pet’s medical records or other information. Additionally, pet microchips are not GPS-enabled and can’t be used to track or locate a cat or dog while they are lost. 

Once an animal is found, only someone possessing a specialized scanner can read a pet microchip. However, most animals are initially found by neighbors and other private community members who do not have access to this technology. 

Sometimes good samaritans bring lost pets to a location with a scanner. Unfortunately, if the pet microchip has not been registered with a database or if the information on file is old or outdated, it requires a lot more time and effort to track down the current owner, if they can be found at all.

Responsible pet owners should ensure their animals are properly collared and tagged even if they have been microchipped. A tag with the owner’s contact information clearly printed is still the easiest and fastest way to help lost pets get home.


Frequently Asked Questions About Microchipping Your Pet

Are microchips safe for pets? 

Yes, pet microchipping is a safe procedure and is routinely performed at Ballantyne Veterinary Clinic. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than 4 million pets have been microchipped since 1996. In that time, only 391 adverse reactions have been reported.

The most common complication is microchip migration from the original site, which is inconvenient but not dangerous. However, pet owners should watch for signs of infection or adverse reactions like hair loss following the procedure. 

Despite persistent concerns regarding cancer, the BSAVA database reports only four cases of tumors associated with microchips in dogs and cats. In two of the four cases, the microchip was not the direct cause of the tumor.


How do you register a pet microchip? 

You can register your pet’s microchip by creating an account on an online registry website like HomeAgain. If you use HomeAgain and keep the registration current, you’re eligible for valuable perks, including:

  • Free calls to ASPCA poison control for life vs the $95 regular fee
  • An "allowance" to get your pet home if they are found far away (flight/transportation fees)
  • Money to go toward any medical bills incurred should your pet be injured while missing

When completing the registration, make sure you have any paperwork given to you by the vet that performed the microchipping procedure. You’ll also need to gather information about you and your pet, including your name, address, phone number, and email address, as well as your pet's name, breed, age, gender, and microchip number.

When you visit Ballantyne Vet for your pet’s microchipping, we’ll register them for you at the same appointment.

Regardless of where you get your pet’s microchip implanted, we recommend keeping any relevant paperwork. You’ll need to be able to contact the registry again to update your address, phone number, or email in case of any changes. Keeping your information current and accurate is a vital part of the microchipping process.


What is the cost of microchipping a pet?

The exact procedure cost varies depending on location, but most veterinary offices can perform pet microchipping for a small fee.

In addition to the cost of the procedure, some registries charge a one-time registration fee. If we complete your pet’s microchip registration in our office, the cost is included in your bill to us. Other registries may charge an annual fee for maintaining a pet’s information in their database or for updating owner information. 


How long do pet microchips last?

Cat and dog microchips are designed to work for 25 years, long enough to protect most animals for a lifetime. 


Visit Ballantyne Veterinary Clinic to Microchip Your Pet

Our animal companions are an important part of our lives and families, and they need our help to stay safe and healthy. Unfortunately, even the most well-trained animal can become lost during a moment of stress, fear, or confusion.

Microchipping your dog or cat dramatically increases the chances that an accidental separation ends in a happy reunion for you and your pet. Contact our South Charlotte veterinary clinic to schedule an appointment to get your pet microchipped today.

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