We never want to think about our pets getting lost, but according to the microchip and pet recovery company HomeAgain, an average of one of every three family pets will go missing. Because of this scary statistic, we encourage pet owners to take every possible step to prevent their pets from getting lost, and to increase the odds of a happy reunion if they do. 

Your pet should wear a collar with an identification tag at all times so that anyone who finds him can contact you instantly. However, keep in mind that collars are not permanent. Breakaway collars on cats are designed to break off to prevent strangulation, and some dogs are pros at slipping out of their collars. And, these scenarios don’t take into account the times your pet may get away while he’s collar-free, like during the night or from the car. Sadly, disasters can strike, and a house fire or car accident becomes more tragic when pets escape without identification. 

Fortunately, permanent pet identification is only a veterinary appointment away. One quick injection will fit your pet with a microchip bearing a unique identification number that is linked to your contact information. When your pet is microchipped, it doesn’t matter if he is wearing his collar or not—every veterinary clinic or animal shelter will be able to scan his microchip and reunite you both in no time. 

What a pet’s microchip is

A pet identification microchip is an electronic chip encased in a glass cylinder. The entire contraption is tiny—about the size of a grain of rice. Microchips are embedded under your pet’s skin between his shoulder blades, using a needle that is larger than a standard vaccination needle, but which most pets tolerate well. Microchips are implanted in a matter of seconds, like a vaccine, and pets do not require anesthesia. 

Once your pet has a microchip, his number will be registered to your contact information. Depending on the policies of the facility where the microchip is implanted and the chip manufacturer, the registration process will differ. Find out if your veterinarian will register the chip, or if you will be responsible. Remember, a microchip is useless unless it is linked to contact information. 

If your pet is found without a collar or other external identification, local veterinarians, animal control officers, or animal shelters will scan him for a microchip. When his number pops up, they’ll obtain your contact information from the microchip manufacturer and call you. 

What a pet’s microchip is not

A pet identification microchip is not a GPS tracking device. You will not be able to find your pet’s location because he has a microchip. GPS tracking systems typically are external units attached to your pet’s collar or harness. 

Microchips do work for pets

While collars and tags with up-to-date identification provide an almost instant return should your pet be found, they are not enough in many situations. Collars get lost and owners take pets on vacation, thereby making addresses and phone numbers inaccurate. When your pet has a permanent microchip identification, he will always have a way back to you. 

The proof is in the numbers: 

  • Return rates for dogs:
    • Without a microchip: 21.9%
    • With a microchip: 52.5%
  • Return rates for cats:
    • Without a microchip: 1.8%
    • With a microchip: 38.5%

These return rates would be higher if owners kept their contact information with the microchip company up to date. Microchipped pets who are not able to be reunited with their owners often have microchips with incorrect or missing owner information. 

Check the Chip Day

August 15 is “Check the Chip Day.” The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) have created this annual “holiday” to remind pet owners to double check their pets’ microchips. Drop by our office to have your pet scanned, or contact your pet’s chip manufacturer to ensure that your contact information is up to date. You can also use AAHA’s handy Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool to check your pet’s chip information.

Taking a few minutes every August 15 to ensure everything is in order with your pet’s identification could be the difference between your pet being lost or found. It’s also a perfect time to give us a call if your pet doesn’t already have a microchip. The appointment is quick and easy, and may be a life-saver, for you and your pet.