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Microchipping Your Pet

Aug 17, 2007
There are several reasons to get your pet microchipped. The main reason is that without doing so, there is little chance of your pet being reunited with you if it is lost or stolen. While collar tags are effective if your pet gets accidentally lost, they are easily removed, can fall off and are no deterrent for a thief. Microchipping is also the compulsory first step when applying for a pet passport, for those owners who wish to take their pet abroad.

Dog Theft

You may have laughed at Ace Ventura Pet Detective, but there are few more traumatic experiences that having a pet stolen. With the police seemingly disinterested, it has been reported that only one in 10 owners whose dog has been stolen is even given a crime number. As a result, in desperation to retrieve their beloved pet they give in to ransom demands. And as long as the thieves get away with it, they will keep on doing it.

A microchip is not a tracking device, it does not allow you to pinpoint where your pet has been taken to. However, if your pet is sold by the thief, the buyer is quite likely to take him or her to a veterinary clinic at some point in the future. Theoretically, when registering a new client a veterinarian will check the animal for a microchip, and run this number against the national database. If the pet was reported stolen, this will automatically be flagged on the system, and the previous owner can be notified. Of course there is the danger that a vet will not bother to check the animals microchip, but there have been many occasions where pets and their rightful owners have been reunited in this way.

Outdoor Cats

Cats given the license to roam around outdoors, especially in urban areas, run the risk of being involved in road traffic accidents. If the cat is not killed on impact, its instinct will be to bolt and then hide somewhere in the vicinity of the incident. Often it is not the owner of the cat who brings the injured creature to the veterinary clinic, and there are numerous cases of cats injured in road traffic accidents having being reunited with their owners via their microchips.

Pet Passports

There are three steps to attaining a pet passport for your pet in accordance to the strictly regulated PETS travel scheme:

1. Microchipping
2. Rabies vaccination
3. Blood test to check rabies vaccine was successful

What is the procedure?

A microchip is about the size of a grain of rice. It is injected under the skin in the scruff, on the back of the neck between the shoulder blades. It is quite a large needle, so can cause a sharp pain when inserted, though many animals do not even notice as there are so few nerves in the skin there. It can be done at any time, sedation is not usually necessary. However most vets prefer not to microchip puppies or kittens until they are at least 12 weeks old, or preferably when they are under anesthetic while being neutered.

Does it migrate around the body?

It should not move far from where it was injected. There have been rare reports of microchips migrating out of position, making them difficult to locate. However this is extremely rare, and scanners are very good at picking up the microchip signal when slowly moved over the back.

How does it work?

The chip contains a long number that is unique for that particular animal. When scanned by a handheld scanner (at a veterinary clinic, police station or animal shelter) the number comes up on the screen. This number can then be entered into a national database, which stores the name of the owner, the owners address, telephone numbers and email address.

Is it expensive?

Most veterinary clinics charge no more than US$ 50 (GBP 25) for inserting a microchip and completing all the necessary paperwork.

What if I move house?

Simply call the microchip company and change your details. Some companies provide you with a password and allow you to update your details online as and when necessary.
About the Author
Dr Matthew Homfray is one of the veterinary pet experts at www.WhyDoesMyPet.com. Our dedicated community of caring pet experts are waiting to offer you advice, second opinions and support.
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