Whether you’re a new (or a soon-to-be) dog owner or you’re just new to the world of microchips, this comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know.
Keep reading to take a deep dive into all things microchips for dogs — from the side effects of dog microchips to what they cost, how the implant procedure works, what they’re good for, and even what they aren’t so good for!
What is a Microchip for Dogs?
Just in case you are indeed new to the world of microchips, let’s start with a quick rundown on the topic.
Microchips for pets are rice-sized devices that are implanted under their skin, typically between their front shoulder blades.
These chips are similar to the chips in a credit card in that they’re Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags.
The RFID system is made up of tags and readers. The reader emits radio waves, the tag sends back signals that communicate information to the reader. In the case of microchips for dogs, they’re what’s know as “passive” tags because they don’t produce any power themselves. They only power up and transmit the information on them when they’re read by a special scanning device that most veterinarian offices are equipped with.
And what is this information that they transmit? Most will send back an identification number that is unique to your pet — kind of like a social security number.
What’s that number good for? More on that next.
Why Would I Want to Microchip My Dog?
Most veterinarian offices and animal shelters have universal scanners that can read the information on almost any microchip.
When they enter this information into one of the major microchip registries — of which any facility that works with pets is well aware — it will pull up the contact information that’s associated with the ID number.
This is where microchips shine: Giving shelters the ability to reunite the lost or stolen pets who are turned into them with their owners.
However, if the identification number on your dog’s microchip isn’t tied to your current contact information, it’s going to be a lot harder for your lost pet to be returned to you quickly — if at all.
So how can you be sure the information on your dog’s microchip is correct? Let’s walk through the whole process now.
What is the Microchipping Procedure Like and What Does it Cost?
The cost of getting your dog microchipped is going to vary from location to location, just like any animal medical service would. However, the average you can expect to pay is somewhere around $45.
The process of inserting the microchip only lasts a few seconds.
A veterinarian simply uses a syringe that’s loaded with the microchip to inject the device just under the skin and often between the shoulder blades at the base of the neck.
Often, it’s such a quick procedure — just like getting any other shot — that an anesthetic doesn’t even need to be used.
Interestingly, it’s not really the medical procedure itself that’s the most important step in microchipping your dog — it’s what comes next.
Dog Microchipping Registration and Upkeep
Once your dog’s microchip is implanted, your vet can give you information about the registry associated with the brand of microchip they used. This registry should have instructions on how to link your contact information to your pet’s new, unique identification number.
It’s a good idea to keep a record of your dog’s microchip ID number as well as information about the registry it’s attached to in case you ever need to update your phone number, address, or emergency contact information — or in case you need to transfer ownership of your pet to someone else.
Some sources also recommend registering your pet’s microchip information and your contact information with as many of the different pet microchip registries as possible to increase your chances of being located no matter which registry is searched.
Sound like an imperfect process?
Unfortunately, it still is in the U.S.
In fact, the U.S. is the only country where microchip implantation and registration are two different processes. This means there is no one central database to which every microchip can be registered.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), only 58% of microchips are registered and incorrect contact information is the leading reason shelters are unable to locate owners.
The American Animal Hospital Association is trying to solve this problem with their Pet Microchip Lookup tool, which directs users to the participating microchip registries that could be associated with the ID number they entered. While it’s not a registry itself, the Pet Microchip Lookup has become a preferred first stop for animal caretakers after scanning a chip.
It can be a little stressful for a new pet owner to remember all the ins and outs of microchip registration and upkeep. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, all you have to do after you register your dog’s microchip for the first time is put National Check the Chip Day (August 15) on your calendar. Every year, you’ll get a reminder to check your pet’s chip registration info to make sure you don’t need to make any updates.
Microchips for Dogs: Side Effects of Which to Be Aware
While bad microchip side effects for dogs are quite rare, it’s still important that you know all the possible outcomes if you choose to get your pet chipped.
Improper Placement Can Have Life-Threatening Affects
Like any medical device, a microchip that is implanted improperly can have serious negative effects.
In a report by the AVMA, it was found that microchips are most often implanted improperly by being accidentally inserted into the spinal canal. This is most common when microchipping small, young animals. In the majority of cases, the adverse effects were reversible once the improper placement was caught and the chip moved.
Microchips, Tumors, and Cancer
If you’ve heard anything alarming about microchips, it’s probably the rumor that they’ve been linked to cancer in animals.
However, 13 years into their “microchip adverse reaction program,” the British Small Animal Veterinary Association had only recorded two tumors in the nearly four million pets that had been chipped in the United Kingdom.
It’s likely that the talk of tumors and cancer that surrounds microchips is a result of testing on rodents — which are more susceptible than other species to growing tumors in response to having foreign objects introduced to their bodies. There is no trustworthy link between these tumors in rodents and tumors, or cancer, in other animals.
Chip Migration Can Make Them Harder to Locate and Scan
The most common microchip side effect for dogs is migration of the chip from where it’s originally implanted.
While this isn’t considered to be harmful to the animal, it can make the chip harder to find, harder to scan, and therefore less effective when it comes to bringing a lost dog home safely.
Even though this is the most common microchip side effect in dogs, it’s still pretty rare. In one study, microchip migration happened in .6% of the animals and only one microchip failed to transmit its information when scanned.