Questions and Topics

Have a question? Want to read about a certain topic? Send an e-mail to:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Little Thing Called A Microchip

With all the technological advances in the past decade along came a little thing in the pet world called the Microchip or "chip". This little device is only about the size of a grain of rice, yet it could mean the difference between having your lost pet returned safely to your home or never seeing you pet again.
Despite what rumors and myths say about a microchip, it cannot "track" your pet. It does not have GPS or any type of remote locating/tracking system. It does not send out radio waves, signals or frequencies to remote locations.  And, no, it doesn't store you or your pets personal information. So your identity cannot be stolen from it. Nor can your information be changed on the chip itself. The only information that is on the chip is an individual single code or number. The only way to get that number is by scanning it with a special hand held scanning device or "scanner". These devices are very expensive and not readily available to the general public. However just about every Veterinary hospital and shelter has them. The scanner has to be waved over the pet less than an inch from the body in order for the scanner to "read" the number stored on the chip. Once the chip number comes up onto the scanner, the person has to copy down the number, then the search begins.

Chips are harmless to the pet once they are properly inserted. How they are inserted depends on the brand, but most come installed in a sterile needle and inserted under the skin in between the shoulder blades of the pet. This is done quickly and relatively painlessly, depending on the animal. Just like people, some animals are more sensitive than others. Chips can be tricky little buggers and on occasion will "travel" to another location under the skin. that is why when we scan an animal we do a full body sweep to try to locate a chip. Usually when they travel it has moves to the side of the shoulder or down the back a little ways. This doesn't hurt the animal. Aside from the initial insertion, the chip has not been known to cause any pain. The chip also cannot be felt except by some dogs or cats with thin skin and very little body fat. Chips also cannot be easily removed. A Veterinarian would have to do the procedure as a surgery and I don't know of any who would unless it was endangering the animal's life.
So how does the microchip work in returning a pet to it's owner? In the field, we usually have scanners on our trucks. So we can scan animals at the time we pick them up. Once we get the number we call the microchip company. This is where we have our fingers crossed. Is the chip registered and is the owner information current. This is the biggest problem we have with chips. The owners get the animal microchip but fail to register thier information with the company or verify that thier information is current. Or they have moved or changed thier number, failing to update the information. If this happens we are at a dead end. The animal will be impounded.
Now if the chip information is correct we will try to make contact with you by phone first. And if your address is close to the found location we will try to return your dog to your house. If the pet cannot be returned to the owner in the field, we will leave a notice or a phone message telling you where your pet can be located.
If you find a pet, you can take it to a Veterinary hospital or shelter and have the pet scanned. The vet hospital can call the chip company and obtain the owner information. They then will also call the owner and try to get the pet back home. The goal is to return the pet to it's owner.
Microchips are available through your vet, through various mobile clinics and at all animal shelters. Animal Shelters are actually required to microchip any pet that is adopted from them.
When you get your pet microchipped, make sure you understand about registering your pet. Often times people automatically assume that the registration is done for them at the time of the microchipping. This is not always the case and this often leads those of us trying to locate owners to deadends.
If your pet is microchipped please make sure that the information is correctly registered with the microchip company. If your unsure what company handles your pet's registration, or you don't have the registration information any long let alone know your pet's chip number, you can visit your vet or local shelter for a quick scan. They can let you know what company your pet's chip is registered to. You can find most of the companies online and often you can update your information online.
Recently a cat was returned to it's owner, after being missing 8 years! Another story was a local dog was brought to a shelter two states away and re-united with it's owner. Microchips work, especially if they always have current information.  

Just a few of the Microchip Companies and registries: 

Freepetchip: (this is a new FREE chip registry)


  1. Great post! I work at a shelter in WA and we all do a happy dance with an animal comes in with a microchip that actually has up to date owner information. :) Would you be okay it we put this blog post on our shelter's facebook page?

    1. Feel free to share my blog with anyone who might benefit. My blogs are posted in the online Rosemont Patch as well as going to be posted in the Sacramento Bee. I welcome comments and questions!

  2. We adopted a dog from Sac County shelter last April that was picked up as a stray. She had a microchip in her and the owner never registered it. As soon as the shelter submitted the paperwork, and we were able to, I updated the chip with all of our current information. Thanks for getting this info out there!

  3. I really agree with your post that microchips are very essential for our pet while they lost. These chips useful to find the pet easily.