May is National Chip Your Pet Month. There are misconceptions about microchips that keep pet parents from chipping their pets.
Understand the risks and benefits associated with microchipping your pet by examining the top five fictions about chips.
Fiction 1: Microchips are difficult to implant and can harm my pet.
Fact: Microchips are about the size of a grain of rice and are safely implanted like a vaccine is administered, by a needle in a fold of skin. For most pets, the discomfort is also like that of receiving a vaccine: mild and short-term. Since microchips never have to be replaced, it’s a quick, one-time shot. Plus, microchips are made of a biocompatible material that doesn’t cause allergic reactions. In the past, microchips ran the risk of migrating to another part of your pet’s body—my 12-year-old dog Emmett’s chip now lives in his shoulder—but that’s no longer the case because of anti-migration technology added to the chips.
Fiction 2: Indoor cats don’t need microchips
Fact: Yes, they do! Even if you’re diligent about keeping your cat safely tucked inside, repairmen or visiting guests may not be as careful. Many indoor cats don’t wear collars with identification tags either. If your indoor pet slips out, having that microchip could bring her back home. (Just look at the harrowing numbers in Fiction 5, below.)
Fiction 3: Microchips are very expensive.
Fact: According to The Mobile Pet Vet, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the average cost of a vet-implanted chip is $45, which includes registering your pet in the service’s database. However, if that cost seems prohibitive, keep an eye on your local shelter; many offer low-cost microchip services periodically.
Fiction 4: Microchips provide your pet with GPS-style tracking.
Fact: The microchip must be scanned in order for it to work. Microchips aren’t GPS technology; they’re Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. That means it doesn’t require a battery because it only works when it’s scanned—and draws the power needed to provide the scanner with the number from the scanner. Almost all shelters in the U.S. have a microchip scanner on hand, and most are universal scanners, which means they can read numbers from just about any brand of chip.
Fiction 5: My pet’s collar tags will be enough to get him safely home.
Fact: A collar with up-to-date ID tags is important, of course. But, collars fall off and tags become indecipherable over time. While an ID tag is a critical first line of defense when your pet is lost, a microchip can’t get lost, fall off, or become unreadable.
In a 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the authors found, “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.”
The bottom line:A microchip's benefits outweigh the drawbacks, many of which are unsubstantiated worries. Get your pet chipped, and keep the information updated. It’s the most reliable way to keep identifying information with your pet at all times, which significantly increases the chances that your furball will be reunited with you.
Maggie is a writer and author, whose first book, Clicker Dog Training: The Better Path to a Well-Behaved Pup was published by Open Air Publishing. When she's not writing (or reading books about grammar), she teaches writing courses to college students and professionals who want to nail down the basics of communication. Outside of work, she hikes, throws dinner parties, plays with her three dogs and cat, and travels as much as possible.