To some, implanting microchips in pets for identification
has a decidedly James Bond-ish appeal. But hundreds
of thousands of pet owners are asking their veterinarians
to implant microchips in their furry or feathery
friends. Whats the advantage? If your pet
gets lost, a handheld scanner like the
ones used at store checkout counters can
read the identification information in the chip
and help reunite you with your buddy. The chip
is the size and shape of a grain of rice. Veterinarians
say these tiny chips are safe, and they dramatically
increase the chances of finding lost pets.
Microchips Help Make
Veterinarian Dr. Richard Seader of Rockville,
N.Y., began injecting microchips into his patients
two years ago. "Its a very good idea,"
he says. "If a pet gets lost, now she can
be identified at the pound if she has the microchip.
If theres no ID, she could stay there
for five days and then get put to sleep, depending
on how crowded the shelter is."
Indeed, says Dr. Jim Rummel, a veterinarian
in Edinboro, Pa., the leading cause of death
among pets is not disease, parasites or being
injured it's the euthanasia of lost pets
who cannot be identified.
At first, it was just farmers who used the
chips to help keep track of their livestock.
They used an earlier, larger version of the
chip, which usually was tagged onto the animal's
ear. During the past few years, researchers
have come up with smaller chips that are suitable
for internal implantation, and pet owners have
started lining up.
Today, more than a million pets are registered
with either the American Kennel Clubs
Companion Animal Recovery system (which uses
the HomeAgain system) or American Veterinary
Identification Devices. And more than 150,000
lost pets have been reunited with their owners
through these systems.
The microchip has the advantage of permanence;
collar and tags can be lost or removed. Some
owners have tattooed their address or phone
number, but this procedure takes longer and
is more painful to your pet. In addition, if
you move or change your phone number, the identification
How the Chips Work
The silicon chips can be inserted in almost
any animal, including cats, dogs, horses, reptiles,
birds and small mammals. The chip, which stores
a numeric ID code, is fastened to a miniature
antenna that transmits the radio signal containing
the code. The silicon chip and antenna sit inside
a tiny, hermetically sealed glass container.
The chips, technically called transponders,
are injected between the shoulder blades through
a needle. For birds, the chip is injected under
the wing. The procedure, which takes less than
10 seconds, hurts about as much as a regular
The chips are designed to stay just under the
skin. They cannot move into the bloodstream
or pass through the digestive tract. "It
cant get absorbed," Dr. Seader says.
"It just stays around the shoulder blade
The electronic code corresponds to your contact
information within a database. Unlike a tattoo,
your contact information can be updated within
the database if you move or change phone numbers
(the chip does not have to be touched). Its
a good idea to check your contact information
annually to make sure it is accurate and up
to date. In addition, you should have your veterinarian
or a shelter test the microchip periodically.
You should be aware that many chips are automatically
registered to a shelter or animal hospital.
This means the shelter or hospital will be contacted
first, and they in turn contact you.
To bypass this, you need to register your information
personally with HomeAgain or AVID. Otherwise,
if your the pet is found on a weekend, you may
not know until Monday that she is safe. Many
owners have spent anxiety-ridden weekends searching
for a pet because no one was able to contact
them directly when the pet was found.
Be sure to ask your veterinarian or shelter
volunteer how to register your personal information
with the chips recovery system.
No Side Effects
So far, there have been no side effects to
the procedure. The microchips dont have
batteries that run out, or any other kind of
internal power source for that matter, so you
never need to replace parts. In fact, they're
made to last longer than the pet's lifetime.
Most shelters, rescue organizations and veterinary
hospitals have scanners. Many have a variety
of scanners that correspond with the various
microchip brands. Using a radio signal, the
scanner can read the information on the chip
in less than a second. The animal and the scanner
must be in the same room not like "Wild
Kingdom," where animals are tracked at
great distances. Staffers at the shelter can
then get in touch with the pet owner or the
There are billions of possible codes, so its
safe to say the chances are nil that you'll
be reunited with someone elses pet. Chips
also are becoming popular in other countries.
To help stem the huge stray dog population in
Thailand, the government there recently launched
a campaign to encourage dog owners to implant
their four-footed buddies with the chips. And
in Hong Kong, it is mandatory to have your dog
Various Microchip Companies
In the United States, there are currently two
active suppliers of microchips. American Veterinary
Identification Devices (AVID®) and HomeAgain®.
Each has unique codes and different databases.
The HomeAgain® brand is supported by the
American Kennel Club Companion Animal Recovery.
AVID is supported by its own database. Each
is readily accessible.
To date, AVID has sold several million microchips.
According to a spokesperson, a pet is reunited
with their owner every 32 minutes. Currently,
over 142, 000 lost pets have been returned home.
For more information on AVID microchips, visit
them at www.avidid.com
or call 1-800-336-AVID.
date, HomeAgain has sold over 500,000 microchips
and over 34,000 pets have been reunited with
their owners. For more information on HomeAgain
microchips, visit them at www.akc.org
and click on Companion Animal Recovery or call