While many news stories are divisive, some fill us with hope and warm our hearts—such as watching a lost pet being reunited with their owner. Then, we draw our pet closer, and we may wonder whether our own pet would find their way home if they wandered off around the block—or three states away. Realizing your beloved companion is missing can be terrifying, so don’t leave your pet’s fate up to chance, or assume that would never happen to your pet. Our team at Walnut Creek Vet Hospital explains the importance of microchipping your pet. 

What is a pet microchip?

A microchip (i.e., a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag) is a small, electronic chip about the size of a grain of rice. Pet microchips store a unique identification number that is a pet’s permanent identification and can be read only by a microchip scanner. Pet microchips have no battery or internal power source and cannot actively transmit any information.

Microchipping your pet is safe and easy 

Microchips are completely safe for pets, because the chip material is compatible with living tissue. Microchipping is fast and easy, and involves implantation of the chip through a needle between the shoulder blades under the skin—no surgery or anesthesia required, and no more painful than a typical injection. A microchip takes only a few minutes and can be implanted during a routine veterinary office visit. If your pet is already anesthetized for another procedure, the pet can often be implanted while they’re still under anesthesia.

Your privacy is not affected by microchipping your pet

After the microchip is placed, you must register your pet with the microchipping company’s database or recovery service, and your pet’s unique identification number is then linked to your contact information. The database contains only the information that you choose to provide when you register the chip or update your information and is revealed only if your lost pet is found and their microchip is scanned by a chip reader. 

Microchipping is a permanent way to identify your pet 

Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security because your pet regularly wears a collar with identification tags. Over time, identification tags become scratched and tarnished, making the information difficult to read. Tags can fall off your pet’s collar, which can also break and fall off, leaving your pet who is not microchipped with no form of identification. Your pet should always wear a collar and tags, but these should be in addition to their microchip, which is the only permanent form of identification. 

Microchipped pets are more likely to be reunited with their owner 

Studies have shown that microchipped pets are far more likely to be returned to their owners. In a study of more than 7,700 stray animals at animal shelters in 23 states, microchipped stray dogs were returned to their owners at more than double the rate of dogs without microchips. 

Many countries require microchips for international pet travel 

Many countries, including all European Union (EU) member countries, require that pets must have a chip that is compatible with a specific frequency known as ISO (International Standards Organization). If you are planning a trip with your pet, contact the microchip manufacturer to determine ISO compatibility, and the United States Department of Agriculture for your destination’s specific pet requirements.