What Are Microchips and How Do They Work?
In this blog post, we’re going to go over some frequently asked questions about pet microchip cost, effectiveness, and how they work to help bring your dog or cat home again.
Microchips, also known as transponders, identify pets that are picked up or lost and help reunite them with their owners.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) describes microchips as tiny electronic chips that are enclosed in a glass cylinder. They’re about the same size of a grain of rice. High-tech, right?
Though microchips are tiny electronic devices, they don’t require a battery to operate. Microchips are dormant until activated by the radio frequency of a microchip scanner (so no, they are not tracking devices and do not work as a GPS).
When activated, the pet’s unique identification number appears on the scanner’s screen.
If the ID number is registered with the microchip company or other microchip registry, someone can easily lookup the pet owner’s contact information and phone number.
Poll results: Do you microchip your pet?
Branded Research for Outward Hound polled 7,960 pet parents to find out how many actually have their pets microchipped. Here’s what we learned:
- 4 in 10 pet owners have already microchipped their pets.
- 24% of pet owners say they have not yet microchipped their pets but intend to do so.
- Female pet owners are more likely than male pet owners to say that they have microchipped their pets (43% for women vs. 38% for men).
- Older pet owners are more likely than younger pet owners to have microchipped their pets. 46% of Baby Boomers have microchipped their pets vs. 35% of Gen Z, 40% of Millenials, and 43% of Gen X.
- 34% of pet parents polled don’t intend to microchip their pets at all.
What does a pet microchip cost?
Microchipping a pet is inexpensive. The average cost of your dog’s microchip is about $50. This includes the injection procedure as well as microchip registration.
There is no annual fee for your pet’s microchip. The pet microchip cost is a small price to pay for peace of mind in case your dog or cat is lost without his collar and tags.
Does Microchipping My Dog Hurt Them?
Microchipping is a quick, low-to-no pain procedure that does not require any sedation or anesthetic to be implanted, and can be done at most local veterinary offices. Your veterinarian will inject it under the pet’s skin between the shoulder blades with a hypodermic needle.
If you have a puppy that needs to be neutered or spayed, you can request they inject the microchip during that appointment since they’ll already be under anesthesia.
The microchip implantation procedure is as routine as a vaccination, and microchips are designed to work for 25 years! One and done.
Helping Lost Pets
While there are many benefits of microchipping, you should not rely on microchips alone to recover a missing pet. The microchip is a backup method of identifying the pet and pet owner. It is not a replacement for a collar and tag, but for instances when a lost dog goes missing without its usual ID tags.
This is extremely important: a microchip is nothing without it being registered by you, the pet parent.
Register your pet with the microchip company as soon as you get home. Better yet, do it at the vet’s office using your smartphone so you don’t forget later. If you move or get a new phone number, you will need to update the contact info with the company.
If you stumble upon a lost pet and they’re not wearing any identification, there are several places you can take them to check for a microchip in the microchip database. Animal shelters, veterinarians, animal hospitals, and some pet stores have scanners they’ll use to check for a microchip number.
If one is found, they will look it up in a national pet recovery database. If no microchip is detected and you can’t find the pet parent on your own, take them to your local animal shelter.
A real-life story
Dr. Linda Simon, a veterinary surgeon, and consultant at Five Barks told Outward Hound her first-hand account of a pet being reunited with their family — five years after it went missing! All thanks to a microchip.
One day a cat came into her clinic with a facial injury from a scuffle with another cat.
“She had been living in a nearby council estate for years and was cared for by the local residents who called her ‘Snowy,’” said Dr. Simon.
“We cleaned her up and treated her wounds. As we do with every animal, we also scanned for a chip. We were astounded to find one, given that we knew she had been living on the streets for such a long time. We contacted the owners who told us that Snowy had escaped five years ago and they had then moved house a couple of months later. They were sure she had been run over by a car and had been devastated. The owners came to collect her that very same day and, as far as I know, she is still with them today.”
Why Microchip? Because It Actually Works!
Pet microchips work.
As the AVMA explains:
“A study of more than 7,700 stray animals at animal shelters showed that dogs without microchips were returned to their owners 21.9% of the time, whereas microchipped dogs were returned to their owners 52.2% of the time. Cats without microchips were reunited with their owners only 1.8% of the time, whereas microchipped cats went back home 38.5% of the time. (Lord et al, JAVMA, July 15, 2009)”
Dr. Simon said:
Whenever a lost, stray, or abandoned animal is brought to our clinic, the first thing we do is scan for a chip. There is a relief we all feel if a chip is found. We know that this means this animal’s chances of being reunited with its owner are good.
The small pet microchip cost is worth it. You can keep your pet safe and help other pets get back home with the help of a microchip. It’s a low-risk, affordable way to ensure your furry friend finds his way back to you, its rightful owner.
Don’t forget to keep your pup up-to-date on their vaccinations and monthly heartworm preventative! To read about the deadly dangers of heartworm disease, read: How to Prevent Heartworm in Dogs