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Dog Microchips: A Complete Guide

Dog Microchips: A Complete Guide | Pupford

This article was originally published on June 28th, 2022 by the experts over at Pupford.com.

 

Dog Microchips: A Complete Guide

Every year millions of pets are lost or run away. And unfortunately, not having a dog microchip makes it 2.4x LESS likely that you’ll be reunited with your pup!

And to make matters worse, the 4th of July and the following days typically lead to about a 30% uptick in lost dogs.

But, it’s not all gloom and doom. Microchips are extremely easy to get, relatively cheap, and can keep your pup safe for their entire life!

So, we’re gonna dive into all things dog microchips to help you keep your pup safe!

Here’s some of what we’ll cover in this guide 🐶

  • What is a dog microchip?
    • How do dog microchips work?
    • How big is a dog microchip?
    • Do dog microchips have GPS?
    • Where are dog microchips placed?
    • How to lookup & register a dog’s microchip
  • Should you microchip your dog?
  • How much does dog microchipping cost?
  • What are some dog microchipping side effects?
  • Other frequently asked questions about microchips
    • How long do microchips last in dogs?
    • Can you remove a dog’s microchip?

Let’s dive right into it! ⬇️

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WHAT IS A DOG MICROCHIP?

A dog microchip is a small, passive RFID-enabled (radio frequency identification) device implanted into your dog’s body to help with identifying him/her if lost.

Dog Microchips: A Complete Guide

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While that may sound a bit dystopian and spooky, it’s actually a very safe, effective and beneficial tool for keeping your dog safe!

Passive RFID means that the microchip does not have an internal power source. It is only activated when scanned by a device that emits a certain frequency.

(PS- I won’t discuss microchip frequencies here, but it’s a pretty interesting (although slightly technical) topic you can learn more about here.) 

Pet microchips are typically made from 3 parts.  

  1. A chip (or integrated circuit)
  2. A coil inductor
  3. A capacitor

All parts are enclosed in a small biocompatible (meaning not harmful to living organisms/tissues) glass cylinder. The entire chip is about the size of a grain of rice, or about ½ inch long.

Okay, so that was a bit technical! But simply put, a dog microchip is a small device implanted under your animal’s skin that transmits a unique code when scanned by an RFID scanning device!

How does that work? Let’s find out below 👇

 

HOW DO DOGS MICROCHIPS WORK?

Dog Microchips: A Complete Guide

So, all of that information is nice, but how does that actually help you if your pet is lost?! Here’s how!

If your dog is lost, hopefully, he or she will be found and taken to a shelter or vet. In the case that your dog was lost, there is a chance the collar and/or tags were lost or removed as well.

If so, a microchip can save the day!

Microchips work by activating when scanned by an RFID scanner and emitting a unique identifier that is shown on the screen of the scanner.

Here’s what a scanner may look like (there are a lot of different varieties) ⬇️

 

Dog Microchips: A Complete Guide

Then, the shelter or vet would be able to input that unique identifier into their system and see your contact information like phone number, email, and address! They would then contact you, and you’d have a happy reunion with your lost pup. 🙌

We’ll talk more about this, but this is why it is SO important to register and keep your dog’s microchip information updated!

DO PET MICROCHIPS HAVE GPS?

Dog Microchips: A Complete Guide

While this is a common misconception, pet microchips do NOT have GPS.

GPS devices require a battery and other “service capabilities”, but microchips don’t have either of those! Microchips are only “activated” when scanned by a special RFID scanner.

While microchips are the perfect “backup” solution for dog identification, I do recommend using a dog GPS. It’s even one of my must-haves for traveling with a dog! 

HOW BIG IS A DOG MICROCHIP?

Dog microchips are very small, about the size of a grain of rice.

Dog Microchips: A Complete Guide

They generally measure about 11-13 mm (or ½ inch) long and are about 2mm in diameter. While there can be slight differences between manufacturers, they are always very small and discreet!

WHERE ARE DOG MICROCHIPS PLACED?

Microchips are typically placed on your dog’s upper back, between their shoulder blades.

Your veterinarian will use a needle slightly larger than a typical vaccination needle to inject the microchip in to your dog’s back.

While this process can give a slight pinch/pain to your dog, it is a safe process. It does not typically require your dog to be under anesthesia!

Here is a video showing how a microchip is placed in a dog!

SHOULD YOU MICROCHIP YOUR DOG? WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

Dog Microchips: A Complete Guide

We all want to keep our dogs as safe as possible, but the fact remains that many dogs are lost or run away every year.

Sometimes a door is left open or sometimes a dog is spooked by something like fireworks and runs out of fear.

Losing a pet is an extremely terrifying experience. Luckily, with a microchip, it is much more likely you’ll be reunited with your dog!

Research has found that the median return rate of microchipped dogs is 2.4x higher than dogs without a microchip.

Dog Microchips: A Complete Guide

And while microchipping doesn’t mean you’ll always be reunited with your pup, I personally would do whatever it takes to increase my odds of finding my lost dog again!

Other benefits of microchipping your puppy include:

  • An additional form of verification of ownership (sounds weird, but you never know)
  • Peace of mind
  • Can make international travel/moving an easier process as it is required in some countries

With little to no downside, all pup parents should consider microchipping their dog!

This leads to our next question…

HOW MUCH DOES DOG MICROCHIPPING COST?

Dog Microchips: A Complete Guide

Raising a puppy (or older dog) can get really expensive! You’ve got to cover vet costs, food, treats, toys, beds, leashes, collars, and the list goes on…

(PS- Speaking of lists, be sure to check out our new puppy checklist!)

Generally speaking, it will cost around $25-$75 to get your dog microchipped!

The price will depend on the cost of the microchip, your vet’s fees, and other factors. Sometimes, microchipping is included with an adoption fee. Some microchips now come with smart tags, for extra peace of mind.

As I mentioned before, that price is relatively low when you consider the benefit of a higher likelihood of being reunited with a lost dog!

REGISTERING YOUR MICROCHIP - THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP

Unfortunately, research has shown that on average 40% of microchips are NOT registered to the pet parent with their relevant contact information.

Dog Microchips: A Complete Guide

That means even if the dog is found and scanned by a vet or shelter, they still wouldn’t be able to locate the pet parent! 💩

MICROCHIPS DO NOT AUTOMATICALLY INCLUDE THE PET PARENT’S CONTACT INFORMATION!

It is beyond important that once your pet is microchipped you register and keep the information up to date. That is the only way to ensure your information will be tied to your pup’s microchip.

Typically the registration process is very simple and can be done online or via the phone.

It’s really easy within the dashboard to update my contact information, add relevant information about my pup, and even report a lost pet (hopefully I won’t ever need to)!

Registering your dog’s microchip is so important that the American Veterinary Medical Association even created National Check the Chip Day, which happens every August 15th!

HOW TO LOOKUP & REGISTER A DOG’S MICROCHIP

If you aren’t sure if your dog’s microchip is registered you can try a couple of different options.

If you know the manufacturer of your pet’s chip and your pet’s microchip number, you can search the microchip number on that specific manufacturer’s website (ie, Petstablished, Home Again, PetLink, etc.) and see if you’ve created an account previously.

If you aren’t sure of the manufacturer you can also check out the AAHA’s Universal Pet Microchip Lookup. One note though, that lookup is NOT a registry.

This is a note directly from their website:

“The AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool is NOT a microchip registry—it is an internet-based application to assist in the identification of those registries on which a particular microchip is registered, or otherwise provide the chip’s manufacturer. The tool works by searching the databases of participating companies. It will not return pet owner information contained in the registries’ databases, instead it will identify which registries should be contacted when a lost pet is scanned and a microchip number is identified.”

If you don’t know your pet’s microchip number, you should contact the vet or shelter that microchipped your dog. They should be able to provide you with the number.

If that isn’t possible, you can try going to a vet or shelter and having them scan your dog’s microchip to get the number. Most places won’t charge for that service (at least I’d hope they won’t).

Just to reiterate for the 7th time… You MUST register your dog’s microchip!! This step is necessary (again, not optional) to ensure your pet’s microchip actually means something! 😃

WHAT ARE SOME DOG MICROCHIP SIDE EFFECTS, IF ANY?

Dog Microchips: A Complete Guide

This guide wouldn’t be complete without discussing some of the potential side effects of dog microchips. Before you start to worry, the side effects are VERY unlikely and typically not very serious.

Data from the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) in the UK has been gathered to report adverse effects of pet microchips.

Since the database began collecting information in 1996, over 4 million animals have been microchipped. Of that 4 million, only 391 adverse reactions were reported.

As a percentage, only about 0.009% of microchipped animals reported issues or side effects.

And of those 391 adverse reactions to microchips, most fell into the category of either:

  • Migration (the microchip moving out of the inserted area)
  • Loss from the animal’s body (the microchip somehow no longer being present in the animal)
  • Failure (the microchip stopped working)

There were a couple of instances where growths/tumors were reported. In those cases, it couldn't be 100% concluded that the growth/tumor was caused by a microchip.

So, to say it simply… It is extremely unlikely that your dog will experience negative side effects from a microchip.

While those mentioned above do occur, other less serious side effects can occur. Some side effects of microchipping your dog may include:

  • Pain in the injection area
  • Hair loss
  • Bleeding
  • General discomfort

And as a note, most of those side effects can also occur when your dog gets any shot like vaccination or a rabies shot. Those side effects generally resolve on their own but be sure to contact your vet if problems persist after your dog receives their microchip.

The bottom line, microchips are extremely safe and effective and side effects are rare. And, even when side effects occur, they typically will not affect your dog’s health in a major way!

NOTE: If you have concerns or specific questions about your dog, I recommend consulting your vet. I’m not a vet, so talk to your veterinarian if you have concerns or questions about microchipping!

Extra Resource: This PDF from the Microchip Adverse Event Reporting Scheme in the UK has even more updated data around side effects.

OTHER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT PET MICROCHIPS

Dog Microchips: A Complete Guide

Now that we’ve covered the most important aspects of microchips, let’s answer some other common questions.

HOW LONG DO MICROCHIPS LAST IN DOGS?

Many pup parents wonder how long microchips last and if their dog will need multiple throughout their life. The answer is it’s a one-and-done process!

Microchips are built to last about 25 years, which is the entire lifetime for the vast majority of dogs.

Microchips typically stay in your dog after they pass away. So, they are either buried with them in, or the chip is broken down during a cremation process.

So once you microchip your dog once, you won’t have to worry about it again!

CAN YOU REMOVE A DOG’S MICROCHIP?

While you technically can have a vet remove a microchip, it is almost never recommended or performed.

Removing a microchip requires your dog to be put under anesthesia and an incision is performed to allow removal of the microchip.

Again, it is extremely uncommon and not recommended in almost all cases.

IS IT REQUIRED TO MICROCHIP YOUR DOG?

Dog Microchips: A Complete Guide

Microchip regulations and laws vary by country and even state-by-state within the US.

In most places, it is not required to microchip your dog. There are some countries that do require microchipping your dog (France, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and some others).

In the United States, it is not required to microchip your dog.

As is best practice in most cases, research your area’s specific rules and regulations around pet microchipping. You can do that by going to Google (or your preferred search engine) and searching ‘pet microchip laws [insert city, state, or area]’.

HOW CAN YOU TELL IF A DOG IS MICROCHIPPED?

The easiest way to tell if a dog is microchipped is to go to a vet or shelter with an RFID scanner and ask them to scan your dog.

You can also try running your hand along your dog’s shoulder blade area to try and feel for a microchip. This isn’t always practical because microchips are very small.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON DOG MICROCHIPS

Dog Microchips: A Complete Guide

Dog microchips are an extremely useful and beneficial tool for pup parents. By microchipping your dog, you vastly increase your odds of being reunited with your pup if they run away or are lost.

And while there have been reported side effects, those effects are generally mild and don’t last for long.

No matter where you live or your dog’s breed, choosing to microchip your dog is a smart choice!

Do you have an experience where you (or someone you know) benefitted from having their dog microchipped? Tell everyone about it in the comments below!

And if you’re a new pup parent trying to learn the ropes of raising a pup, be sure to sign up for 30 Day Perfect Pup! It’s an online, free (no cc required), and effective video training course to help you raise a well-behaved dog!

Sign up for free here! 

The length of this article has been edited due to space contraints, and some of the links have been removed or edited.


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