Ask pet owners, “Can you track your dog with a microchip?” and you’re likely to get a mix of answers.
There’s a very common misconception among a lot of non-pet-owners (and some pet owners) that a microchip is all you need to find your pet if they ever go missing. More specifically, a lot of people think you can actually track your pet via their microchip.
In reality, though, a microchip is just one tool for finding a lost pet, and it’s not necessarily the best one. And when it comes to tracking your pet’s location in real time — well, that’s not something a microchip can do.
Luckily, there are other tools that, when combined with a microchip, give you a range of tracking abilities to help find your lost dog (or other pet). Want to learn how to best protect your furry friends? Read on.
Real Talk: Can You Track Your Dog With a Microchip?
The answer to this question is a little bit more complicated than a simple yes or no, but if you’re envisioning using your pet’s microchip to track down their exact location, the answer is “NO!”
Many people think that a microchip can tell you your pet’s location if they go missing, and that’s actually not the case. That’s not what microchips are intended to do, and there are other pet tracking products on the market that actually fulfill that need.
Microchips serve a different purpose altogether — one that can still be useful for finding a missing pet, but only under the right circumstances.
How Does a Microchip Work?
A microchip is a radio-frequency identification (RFID) device that can be implanted under your pet’s skin to provide them with a permanent ID. Pet microchips are so small, they can be implanted in just a few seconds with an applicator that doesn’t require anesthetic, and is similar to your pet getting a vaccine.
Pet microchips come preloaded with just a few pieces of information: An ID number, and a phone number for the registry for that microchip’s brand. Many people think a microchip is similar to an ID tag on a collar, and that they can program their contact information into the microchip. This actually isn’t true, but they can provide their contact information to the microchip’s registry, so once someone scans the chip and retrieves the ID number, they can call in for the owner’s contact information.
A microchip is something that lasts your pet’s entire life — it doesn’t ever need to be removed or replaced. If your contact information ever changes, it’s important to contact your pet’s microchip registry to update it, though this process can be time-consuming, and some registration companies actually charge fees to update the contact information associated with a pet’s microchip.
Does a Microchip Emit a Signal?
No. As an RFID device, a microchip doesn’t require any power source, and it doesn’t emit a signal.
When a microchip is scanned by a veterinarian or animal shelter employee, the scanner provides enough power to the chip to transmit the ID number and phone number it contains.
That’s all a microchip can emit, though. It can only be read by a microchip scanner at very close range. It can’t be used to locate a lost pet — it can only be used to find out the pet’s microchip ID number after someone has found it and taken it somewhere with a microchip scanner.
What’s the Difference Between a Microchip and a Pet Tracker?
Microchips and pet trackers are both tools that are meant to help reunite lost pets with their owners.
The biggest difference between a microchip and a pet tracker is that microchips are passive. They can help connect you with your lost pet — if the pet is found by someone who knows to take it somewhere and have the microchip scanned, and if your contact information is up-to-date in your pet’s microchip registry.
On the other hand, a pet tracker is proactive. It allows you to use the location information supplied by the tracker to search for your lost pet, and find them yourself. And some pet trackers, like Huan, use bluetooth signals to alert community members when a lost pet is nearby so they can help aid in the search.
Does This Mean Microchips Are Useless?
No! Just because you can’t track your lost dog with a microchip doesn’t mean your pet shouldn’t have one. A microchip is still an important tool that can help reunite lost pets with their owners. As any pet owner knows, when your sidekick goes missing, every potential tool to help find them matters.
But a microchip only helps you reunite with your lost pet after they’re found. The best tool for actually helping you find your lost pet is a pet tracker.