Demystifying Microchipping

Even the most diligent pet owner can become victim to companion animal wanderlust.

Losing a loved one can be an emotionally traumatic event for the owner with potentially devastating consequences for the pet. Lost pets are predisposed to trauma, whether from another animal or man-made, malnourishment, exposure to infectious disease, and/or ending up at the animal shelter with the possible outcome of euthanasia among other risks.

Traditionally, collars with identification information have been used to try and reunite a lost dog or cat with their owners; however, these methods are not failsafe as collars and their ID tags can fall off or become worn and no longer legible. Fortunately, microchipping offers an easy, reliable means of identifying lost dogs and cats.

Microchips Explained

Microchips are small implants that produce a radio signal when scanned. This radio signal contains individualized information on your pet that provides a means by which to contact the owners.

The process of implanting a microchip is simple and easy. The device is implanted under your pet’s skin via administration of an injection. Pets can be awake during this procedure and typically do not react to the injection; however, depending on each pet’s temperament, your veterinarian may recommend administering the implant during an elective anesthesia procedure such as a neuter, spay, or dental cleaning or after administering a sedative to reduce stress in your pet. After implantation, the microchip is scanned to ensure appropriate placement and function.

Advantages of Microchipping

The benefits of microchipping cannot be overstated. Numerous studies have proven the effectiveness of microchipping 1,3,4,5.

In one study, cats were 20 times more likely to be returned to owners while dogs were 2.5 times more likely to be reunited with their loved ones3. Interestingly, studies assessing characteristics of stray dogs and cats that have been recovered have shown that although roughly half of stray dogs had some form of identification at the time they were lost, only 19% of cats had any means of identification 6.

These studies not only demonstrate the utility of microchipping but highlight the need of having some sort of unique identifier for each pet to increase the chances for their safe recovery. Furthermore, in many parts of the world, compulsory microchipping of the stray pet population is becoming common practice to not only increase the percentage of pets successfully returned home but also reducing medical costs associated with caring for strays1.

Debunking Common Myths

Despite the numerous benefits of microchipping, there are still misconceptions about the safety and efficacy of implanting a microchip in pets. The main factor that has been consistently associated with the inability of reuniting a microchipped pet with their loved ones is failure of owners to update their contact information 2,3,6. Often times, people move or have their phone numbers changed. It is important to realize that microchip data must be updated to reflect these life changes. A microchip does not act as a GPS single as GPS signals need a constant source of power whereas microchips do not.

Another common concern is the potential for an adverse reaction associated with implantation. Although there have been rare, anecdotal reports of hair loss at the site of injection, abscess formation, or skin infection, these adverse reactions are rare, and the vast majority of pets tolerate the implantation procedure well with no adverse reactions. In the most severe circumstances, a microchip implant can be removed surgically if absolutely necessary.

There have even been reported concerns that microchips allow the government to access personal information of the pet or owner. There has been zero evidence to support this concern, and there has never been a documented case of a pet turning into a Manchurian candidate via remote activation of an implanted microchip (although cats would definitely make the best assassins).

Hopefully, this short essay has addressed some concerns and has clearly demonstrated the benefits of microchipping your pet. Please contact your Round Rock Veterinarian at Sam Bass Veterinary Wellness where we will be glad to answer any questions or concerns you may have about the microchipping process!

Bibliography:

1. Zak J, Voslarova E, Vecerek V, Bedanova I. Impact of mandatory microchipping on traceability of sheltered dogs in the Czech Republic. J Appl Anim Welf Sci. 2018 Apr-Jun;21(2):108-119.

2. Lancaster E, Rand J, Collecott S, Paterson M. Problems Associated with the Microchip Data of Stray Dogs and Cats Entering RSPCA Queensland Shelters. Animals (Basel). 2015 May 13;5(2):332-48.

3. Lord LK, Ingwersen W, Gray JL, Wintz DJ. Characterization of animals with microchips entering animal shelters. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2009 Jul 15;235(2):160-7.

4. Lord LK, Wittum TE, Ferketich AK, Funk JA, Rajala-Schultz PJ. Search and identification methods that owners use to find a lost dog. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2007 Jan 15;230(2):211-6.

5. Lord LK, Wittum TE, Ferketich AK, Funk JA, Rajala-Schultz PJ. Search and identification methods that owners use to find a lost cat. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2007 Jan 15;230(2):217-20.

6. Goodwin K, Rand J, Morton J, Uthappa V, Walduck R. Email Reminders Increase the Frequency That Pet Owners Update Their Microchip Information. Animals (Basel). 2018 Jan 31;8(2).