In general yes, microchipping is a great idea. At Astoria Animal Hospital we routinely scan animals for microchips as part of the check in process. We scan all dogs and cats even if the owner reports that the animal doesn’t have one, as we have found animals that have microchips that the owner doesn’t know about. On occasion we scan other animals as well such as exotics and avian species.
A microchip is a little piece or technology that can assist in having your lost animal come home. The “chip” is small, about the size of grain of rice, which is inserted under the skin of your animal by your veterinarian. Each microchip has a number or alphanumerical code that is read by a microchip scanner. The chip needs to be registered with its corresponding database after insertion into the animal.
Microchips can be helpful in being reunited with your pet, should he or she become lost. Microchips generally follow a series of events to reunite you with your pet, they are as follows: a veterinarian implants a recognized microchip into your animal under the skin, generally between the shoulder blades. All recognized microchips come with stickers with the code or number printed on them, paraphernalia (tags, magnets, picture frames, etc), and paperwork. The paperwork including how to register the animal and microchip into the corresponding database is provided to the owner. The owner is instructed to register the chip and pay any fees associated with registration and database maintenance. Now skip to the animal being lost/stolen. The dog can’t speak for itself and may not have identifying collar or tags on it. Someone finds the lost dog/cat and takes it to a veterinary clinic or to a shelter for help. The assistant at the hospital/shelter should scan the animal and find a chip. Once the chip is read and the code is written down, the database can be called or searched for the owner’s information. The assistant calls the owner and the animal and owner are reunited. All is good.
But, there are potential hiccups with microchips. First there are microchips being sold to people that the major scanners don’t recognize and therefore go undetected. Some clinics or shelters don’t make it a practice to scan each and every animal that crosses their door so when a stray comes through, the staff don’t think about it or aren’t trained on what to do. Believe it or not there are microchips sold that have no database associated with them or have very small databases (i.e. clinic or statewide not nationwide or international). Some owners don’t understand that they have to register the microchip with the database (and keep information current) for it’s full protective effect. And yes some microchips stop working and have to be replaced.
How does Astoria Animal Hospital prevent these hiccups? Simple, we use the resQ microchip, which is considered an international standard microchip. Our clients are counseled about how microchips work and why they are important during the implantation explanation. We explain how to register their chip and maintain current information through their on online microchip account through Petlink website www.petlink.net. If they don’t have the ability to register the animal themselves, we offer to help or do it for them. For those microchips that stop working, by scanning each time, we catch those and can replace them or at the very least alert the owners so they can contact the maker to determine what course of action they wish to take.
There are different types of microchips available to be placed into pets, which is nicely explained on the microchip Wikipedia site. But from a veterinarian standpoint, what an owner should be looking for in a chip is a microchip made my one of the major chipmakers: resQ, homeagin, or avid. These chips are different in the way they are constructed, how the database is maintained, how you get your information updated should you move or change contact details, and what scanners can read them. It is important for the owner to do a little homework before consenting to a microchip implantation to know what is going to be required of them in the future to maintain the number and their information in the database.
There are a couple of loose ends to discuss with microchips (animal ownership and side effects), which will be the remainder of this article. There is a common question regarding microchips in that they can prove animal ownership. It is uncertain if this is true or not. There are reports that it has proven to be true looking at the reunion stories internationally and logically it would seem to be true here in the USA as well. However, it seems to be true most consistently if the owner can provide some paperwork along with the microchip information such as adoption, sale, or a history of photographs that clearly show the animal and its’ unique features.
The side effects of microchips are similar to anything that is injected to an animal. There have been reports of infection, abscess, inflammation, misplacement of the chip into tissue other than the subcutaneous, and cancer. Though these things are easily detected and picked up at the yearly exam, especially if the owner asks the vet to palpate the area of microchip implantation. At Astoria Animal Hospital, we have yet to see any side effect that would adversely affect the animals’ health.
All in all microchips are great things. Any way to help animals find their homes and owners to recover their beloved pets is a good thing. We recommend that all pets have them placed.
Dr. Dannell Davis
Astoria Animal Hospital