What is a Microchip?
A microchip is a permanent method of electronic identification. The chip itself is very small – about the size of a grain of rice – and is implanted subcutaneously (just under the skin) between the shoulder blades at the back of your pet’s neck. Each chip has a unique number that is detected using a microchip scanner.
Why do we use Microchips?
We use microchips as a form of identifying a pet to a specific owner, guardian or shelter/rescue. Unfortunately, pets go missing all of the time and a microchip is one of a few ways that a lost pet can be identified and returned to his/her owner/guardian.
Should I rely on just a Microchip?
No, there are a few problems that must be discussed when talking about microchips. First even if your pet has a microchip, if it isn’t registered to you with up-to-date information when your lost pet is found whoever scans your pet and discovers the microchip (shelter staff, veterinarian, etc.) will not be able to get reach you. Second, if the chip scanner used by the person scanning your lost pet doesn’t read your type of chip they will think your pet doesn’t have one. We can only hope that they have more than one scanner to test, but I there is no guarantee of that. Third, not all chips and databases are created equal. There are chip manufactures that may not have 24-hour service or allow their data to be accessed by certain online Universal Microchip Lookup Tools like the one from AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association).
How long do microchips last?
Some manufactures claim microchips are designed to work for 25 years.
Can I track my missing pet with a microchip?
No, they simply are not designed that way. Microchips are not a tracking device. They are based on RFID (Radio-frequency identification) technology which doesn’t require a power source. GPS devices require a power source.
Why is having 24-hour phone support important?
If a person or rescue finds a missing pet that has a microchip and it is injured, they will need to contact the owners to get medical consent in order to attend to its medical needs. Depending on the injuries you may only have a short time period to provide medical care. Therefore, it is so important to keep your information, especially your contact phone numbers up-to-date.
What is a microchip scanner?
A microchip scanner is a device used to read the RFID microchip/ID tag embedded into certain animals. Each microchip contains a registration number and the scanner reads the radio frequency of the chip and displays this information. Now, not all microchip scanners are created equal because they don’t read every chip out there on the market. We have had great success with the scanner from Home Again, and suggest ordering directly from them to get the best price and the most up-to-date unit. There are ones for sale online, but you will never know if it is the latest revision.
I have a microchip number now what?
Some microchip scanners will also give you a phone number to call, but when that doesn’t work you can check online. There is a Universal Microchip Lookup Tools from AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) the web address is http://www.petmicrochiplookup.org. Now as we stated above, not all chip manufactures provide information to this database, so you may have to do some more research. There are other charts out there online that will give you a most likely manufacture contact information based on the number provided by the microchip.
Currently, these companies are incorporated into the AAHA Online Lookup Tool:
- 24PetWatch Pet Protection Services
- 911PetChip & Free Pet Chip Registry
- ACA MARRS
- AKC Reunite
- BC Pet Registry
- BeKind PetFind
- Found Animals
- Homeward Bound Pet
- Microchip I.D. Solutions
- Microchip ID Systems, Inc.
- Nanochip ID Inc.
- National Animal Identification Center
- Save This Life
- SmartTag Microchip
– Information for participating companies provided by AAHA @ http://www.petmicrochiplookup.org/participating_companies.aspx
Microchip Number Formats
• No chip number can start with a letter.
• No chip number is over 15 digits in length, or less than 9.
• If a chip number has alpha characters in it, it can be only 10 characters in length.
• Chip numbers must be either 9, 10 or 15 characters. Nothing in between should be accepted. (Eg. 11, 14, etc)
Here is a website with a chart on the microchip number formats – http://www.petpoint.com/help/ipad/microchip_registration.htm
How do I register my pet?
Some veterinarians will register the microchip they implant, but it is a good idea to ask what brand it is and go online and verify the information they have entered. If you must do it, then you will complete the paperwork that comes with the chip and send it to the registry or do it online if that option is available. Some companies charge a one-time registration fee while others charge an annual fee. You’ll also receive a tag for your pet’s collar with the chip number and registry phone number. If your pet came from a shelter or rescue group, the chip may be registered to them. It is a good idea that after the adoption (if this is allowed in your adoption contract) that you update that registration information with your contact info.
What can I do if my pet has a microchip number, but they aren’t in the online database?
Well, the good news is there are two different companies that you can register your pet’s chip with to either have a primary source of information or as a secondary backup to manufacturer of the chip in your pet. They are Home Again and Found Animals. Home Again charges around $20 per year (which includes several benefits) and Found Animals is free.
Can a microchip move inside my pet?
It is always a good idea to have your pet (or a lost pet you are helping) scanned all over their whole body. Although some may say it is less likely today that microchips will migrate, we still encounter pets with chips in various places of their bodies other than where they were implanted. We have even detected microchips that moved to the back legs, so it is a good idea to check all over.
Microchips are a great tool in helping identify your pet or a lost pet, but we still believe all pets should be wearing a collar and tag as well. When asked, “Where do you first check when trying to identify a lost or stray pet?” more than 80% of rescuers say they check the tags first. While it is true that collars can break off when a pet roams outdoors, it is more probable that a collar and tag on your pet will provide the finder all the information needed to find you and get your pet home safe.
If you want to rely on your microchip only, be sure to have it checked every time your pet sees your veterinarian for shots. Another good idea is if someone is holding a microchip clinic locally stop by with your pet and ask them to check it. I am sure they would be more than happy to help.
REMEMBER KEEP YOUR MICROCHIP INFORMATION UP-TO-DATE!!
If you have any questions at all please visit our Contact Page to submit your question. If you need lost pet help you can start with our Lost Pet Tip Sheets or or check out Pet Detective Directory for a trained person near you.