The Microchip Doesn’t Mean 
Dispensing With Visible ID


Having your dog microchipped is an integral part of responsible and loving care for your pet. Microchipped dogs who become separated from their human families and end up at shelters are more than twice as likely to be reunited with their people as dogs who are not microchipped. What happens to dogs who are not microchipped? They are more likely not to be returned to their original families and in some cases even euthanized because a new family does not adopt the lost pet from a shelter.

Still, only a small fraction of dogs are microchipped in the U.S. (compared to 94 percent of dogs in the U.K.). It’s unfortunate, particularly because microchipping a dog is so easy.

How microchipping works

A microchip is about the size of a grain of rice, and a veterinarian inserts it under a dog’s skin with a hypodermic needle. It’s very similar to giving a dog a shot. Once that’s done, you register your dog’s chip with the company that manufactures it. The vet will give you the information you need, and the sign-up can be done online.

Then, if the dog gets lost, the shelter, veterinary clinic, or animal control officer where the dog is brought can scan the chip with a special wand. The scan will reveal the chip’s identification number, and a call to the microchipping company can match the number with the contact information you have provided. Presto — you and the dog are together again. There are now even some national databases that aggregate ID numbers from different microchip companies.

An end to dog tags?

You might think a microchip replaces an ID tag. It does not. “Nothing replaces a collar with up-to-date identification tags,” says the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). That’s because if your dog has visible ID, the chances are much greater that he will never end up at a shelter, even temporarily. Someone can simply read the contact information on the tag and call the person immediately to come get their pet. Problem solved. A collar with your phone number etched onto it is even better than a metal tag, which can become snagged on a branch or some other object and then come off. But sometimes a dog gets out of the house — or away from you — without the collar on, which is why the microchip serves as a reliable backup.

Keep the chip info current!

Too many owners change addresses — or phone numbers — but forget to update the info with the microchipping company. Or a dog is rehomed, and the new family does not change the contact information. The chip is only as good as the identifying information that goes with the number.

August 15th has been named Check the Chip Day by the AVMA and the American Animal Hospital Association. But why not get a leg up and confirm the contact information associated with your dog’s microchip today — or make an appointment to have your dog chipped in time for Check the Chip Day? In the unlikely and unfortunate instance that your dog becomes separated from you, it can literally keep him alive.


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