Every year, numerous pets become lost and, sadly, many never find their way home. Microchipping is an easy, effective, and safe way to help ensure your pet is returned to you should they go missing. Our team at Mill Creek Animal Hospital uses the HomeAgain microchip system, a company that reunites 14,000 pets with their families every month, and we would like to educate you on this technology that can ensure your pet is protected.

What is a pet microchip?

An identification microchip is a tiny radio-frequency transponder that is inserted underneath your pet’s skin, between their shoulder blades. The chip is about the same size as a rice grain, and the injection is no more painful than a vaccination. The microchip is activated when a scanner is passed over it, and the chip transmits your pet’s unique identification number to the scanner, and is displayed on the scanner screen. The microchip does not need battery power, and the chip is not a global positioning system (GPS) device. Your pet’s identification number is linked to your contact information in HomeAgain’s National Pet Recovery Database. 

Why should I get my pet microchipped?

The best reason to get your pet microchipped is to give them at least a 20 percent better chance of being returned to you if they get lost. Other reasons that microchipping benefits your pet include:

  • Protects against pet nappers — Criminals target certain pets, especially purebreds, to resell for quick cash. In fact, the American Kennel Club reports that more than two million dogs are stolen each year. While the microchip does not contain a GPS device, most veterinarians will scan a new pet to check for a microchip. When they find the chip and look up your pet’s identification number, you will be reunited with your pet, as long as your contact information has been kept up to date. 
  • Provides lifelong permanent identification — Microchips are composed of biocompatible material that will not degenerate over time, and they have no moving parts that could break down. Normally, microchips last 25 years or longer, providing lifelong protection for your pet.
  • Protects your pet in a medical emergency — If you experience a medical emergency while out with your pet, your pet’s microchip can help find your family and friends if the emergency responders cannot identify you.
  • Protects your pet when you travel — Most countries have universal microchip scanners, so your pet’s microchip can be read when you are abroad.
  • Reduces the strain on animal shelters — In some countries, such as Ireland and Scotland, pet microchips are mandatory, so that lost pets are returned to their owners, as opposed to taking up space in overcrowded shelters.

If my pet is microchipped, do they still need to wear a collar?

Microchipping your pet is not a substitute for collars and identification tags, and your pet should continue to wear their collar and tags with your current contact information. The microchip provides permanent identification if your pet loses their collar, but the tags will help ensure they are returned to you more quickly.

How is a pet microchip implanted?

The microchip implantation procedure is quick and easy. The microchip comes in a sterile, sealed packet, along with an injection device. Our veterinary professionals at Mill Creek Animal Hospital will first scan the microchip to ensure the transponder is activated and that the identification number matches the one in the packet. Once this information is verified, we will inject the microchip through the skin between your pet’s shoulder blades, and then scan the area, to ensure the microchip can be read under your pet’s skin. You will be given all the necessary information to register your pet’s chip.

How do I maintain my pet’s microchip?

Once your pet is microchipped, you will need to follow a few steps to ensure the device can be used properly.

  • Register your pet’s microchip — Unless you register your pet’s microchip and provide your contact information, someone who finds your pet will not know they belong to you. HomeAgain makes the process easy to go online and register your pet’s microchip.
  • Check your pet’s microchip — Ask our veterinary professionals to scan your pet’s microchip at least once a year, to ensure the device is still functioning.
  • Update your information — Keep your contact information updated, to ensure you can be easily found if your pet goes missing.

What are possible pet microchip complications?

Adverse reactions are rare, with the microchip migrating from the original implantation site the most common complaint. HomeAgain’s standard chip is the only dog and cat microchipping product on the market that has a patented anti-migration feature, to help ensure the chip will not move. Other seldom reported issues are microchip failure, hair loss, infection, and swelling. 

Losing your pet is a terrifying prospect, but microchipping them is the best step you can take to increase your chances of reuniting with your pet. If you would like your pet microchipped, do not hesitate to contact our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited team at Mill Creek Animal Hospital, to schedule an appointment.