Microchips are tiny devices that are implanted under the skin of animals to help identify them if they stray or are lost or stolen. The microchip, about the size of a large grain of rice, uses passive RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology to provide permanent identification, including a special code number and data such as the pet's breed, gender and age and the pet owner's name and address. Microchips are now used by kennels, breeders, rescue groups, humane societies, farms, stables, and pet stores. While in the past similar information could be found on a tag on the animal's collar, an implanted chip is much more permanent. Since approximately half of all lost animals are found at shelters without a collar, the microchip implant provides peace of mind for the pet owner.
Reasons for Microchip Implants
Microchip implants are implanted for a number of reasons including:
- To ensure safety and rediscovery of a lost pet
- To keep track of livestock
- To record the numbers and movements of exotic species for research
- To keep down costs at shelters by finding owners of stray animals
Some pet doors can be programmed to recognize specific animals and prevent others from passing through.
The Microchip Implant Procedure
Before the implantation takes place, the owner first completes an enrollment form with chip identification number, owner contact information, pet name and description, shelter or veterinarian contact information, and an alternate emergency contact. The form is then sent to a registry. For a fee, the registry typically provides location service for the life of the pet or for a maximum of 25 years.
The implanting procedure is much like receiving a routine vaccination, and, once implanted, the chip cannot be felt. No anesthetic is required.
Microchips are always inserted through injections under loose skin, though their location on the body varies according to species. Microchips are implanted in cats and dogs on the back of the neck, in birds in the breast muscles and in horses on the left side of the neck. Each chip also has an anti-migration cap that prevents its movement within the body. The information on the chip can be read with the use of a hand-held scanner available at most veterinary practices or animal shelters. A test scan ensures precision.
Thanks to this new technology, retrieving missing, lost or stolen, pets has become easier than ever before.
Risks of Microchip Implantation
There is only a miniscule risk of complications from microchip implantation. Migration of the microchip within the animal has become exceedingly rare since the invention of anti-migration caps. The chip now usually attaches itself to subcutaneous tissue almost immediately after implantation. There has been a case or two or tumor development at the injection site, but this is statistically negligible since millions of such procedures have been performed.
The one foreseeable problem with microchip implantation is that there is not yet a national registry for such information and no universal scanner has been devised. This means that, in order to secure safety, customers must register with a number of companies, since the detector used by one company may not be readable by the scanner of a competing company.
It is also important that animal owners relying on microchip implants keep their contact information up to date since, if they move, for example, and forget to notify the microchip company, their contact information will no longer be helpful in locating them.