What is Microchipping?
Implantable microchips are cylindrical devices that are implanted in the subcutaneous tissues using a hypodermic needle. These devices contain four components: a capacitor, antenna, connecting wire and a covering. The devices are battery-free and sealed in biocompatible glass or polymer covered by a sheath to prevent migration. Microchips are activated by a low-power radiofrequency signal emitted by scanners; electromagnetic induction generates electricity in the antenna and transmits the information stored in the microchip. When activated by the scanner, the microchip transmits a unique, preprogrammed identification number. Some microchips also collect and transmit body temperature data.
Microchips are produced by various manufacturers within the U.S. and other countries. The metal composition of the microchip varies among manufacturers, and may consist of ferrite, titanium, or other metals. The microchip surface materials are usually bioglass (biocompatible glass) or bioglass coated with different polymers. Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) microchips are implanted in animals.
How is a microchip implanted into an animal? Is it painful? Does it require surgery or anesthesia?
It is injected under the skin using a hypodermic needle. It is no more painful than a typical injection, although the needle is slightly larger than those used for injection. No surgery or anesthesia is required—a microchip can be implanted during a routine veterinary office visit. If your pet is already under anesthesia for a procedure, such as neutering or spaying, the microchip can often be implanted while they're still under anesthesia.
What kind of information is contained in the microchip? Is there a tracking device in it? Will it store my pet's medical information?
The microchips presently used in pets only contain identification numbers. No, the microchip is not a GPS device and cannot track your animal if it gets lost. Although the present technology microchip itself does not contain your pet's medical information, some microchip registration databases will allow you to store that information in the database for quick reference.
Some microchips used in research laboratories and for microchipping some livestock and horses also transmit information about the animal's body temperature.
Should I be concerned about my privacy if my pet is microchipped? Will someone be able to track me down?
You don't need to be concerned about your privacy. The information you provide to the manufacturer's microchip registry will be used to contact you in the event your pet is found and microchip is scanned. In most cases, you can choose to opt in or opt out of other communications (such as newsletters or advertisements) from the manufacturer. The only information about you contained in the database is the information that you choose to provide when you register the chip or update your information. There are protections in place so that a random person can't just look up an owner's identification.
Remember that having the microchip placed is only the first step, and the microchip must be registered in order to give you the best chances of getting your pet back. If that information is missing or incorrect, your chances of getting your pet back are dramatically reduced.
How does a microchip help reunite a lost animal with its owner?
When an animal is found and taken to a shelter or veterinary clinic, one of the first things they do is scan the animal for a microchip. If they find a microchip, and if the microchip registry has accurate information, they can quickly find the animal's owner.
Will a microchip really make it more likely for me to get my pet back if it is lost?
Definitely! 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) For microchipped animals that weren't returned to their owners, most of the time it was due to incorrect owner information (or no owner information) in the microchip registry database – so don't forget to register and keep your information updated.
Does a microchip replace identification tags and rabies tags?
Absolutely not. Microchips are great for permanent identification that is tamper-proof, but nothing replaces a collar with up-to-date identification tags. If a pet is wearing a collar with tags when it's lost, it's often a very quick process to read the tag and contact the owner; however, the information on the tags needs to be accurate and up-to-date. But if a pet is not wearing a collar and tags, or if the collar is lost or removed, then the presence of a microchip might be the only way the pet's owner can be found.
Your pet's rabies tag should always be on its collar, so people can quickly see that your pet has been vaccinated for this deadly disease. Rabies tag numbers also allow tracing of animals and identification of a lost animal's owner, but it can be hard to have a rabies number traced after veterinary clinics or county offices are closed for the day. The microchip databases are online or telephone-accessed databases, and are available 24/7/365.
**SOURCE: American Veterinary Medical Association Website; 2019