While I was away and deliberately lost last week, it crossed my mind that I hadn’t ever talked about pet microchips. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about what the chips can do and how they can be used. I’ll spend some time today talking about statistics and the truth about the utility of microchipping pets.

The concept of microchipping is simple: each pet receives a non-removable identification tag with a unique number implanted under the skin. That unique ID number is kept in one of several lists maintained by the microchip manufacturers. If a pet is lost (or for any reason the ID is needed), a handheld scanner can be used to read the ID number in the chip.

Each little microchip is a small bit of circuitry enclosed in a glass capsule. The chips are actually passive RFID tags. The scanners send a radio signal to the chip, which uses the energy in that signal to send back the chip’s number. Without the scanner, the chip does not do anything on its own. It just sits there.


There are several companies out there that make microchips. While most are utilizing a universal format that allows all of the scanners to read all of the chips, not all do so. Incidentally, we use one of the universal chips and scanners. Veterinarians, rescue groups, animal shelters, etc. purchase chips from the manufacturer. The manufacturer keeps track of the chip ID numbers so that from the moment the chips leave the distributor, there is a paper trail for a chip.

Pet owners have the chip implanted with a simple injection under the skin. It’s a larger needle than for vaccines, but most pets tolerate it very well. Once the chip is implanted, the owner provides contact information. This information is registered in the manufacturer’s database. Once the information is registered in the database, the company will not delete it.

If the chip is scanned, the number will guide the return of the pet to the rightful owner. There are several ways to look up the number, but the owner’s privacy is respected throughout.

It’s that simple! Unfortunately, I hear a LOT of concern about chipping pets. In my usual blunt manner, I’d like to provide some solid information. The statistics were provided by the manufacturer that we use for microchips.

•One in 3 pets will get lost in its lifetime. About 90% of pets that are lost don’t ever make it home.
•Animal shelters euthanize at least 4 million pets a year.
•Microchips are NOT a GPS tracking system. The chips can not send a signal unless they receive a signal from the scanner.
•Microchips do NOT cause harm to the patient. They are enclosed in glass that does not cause inflammation or problems at the injection site.

There’s really no downside to chipping a pet. Even indoor pets can benefit from the protection a microchip provides. If your pet isn’t chipped, or is chipped and isn’t registered, please contact us to get that sorted out!

You can read about the HomeAgain microchip at their web page. This is the company we chose to work with. They’ve reunited over 1 million pets with their owners, which is no small feat.



Filed under cats, dogs, human interest, practice

9 responses to “Microchips

  1. I’ve actually been wondering about the registration of my dog’s chip. She was adopted through a Border Collie rescue group, who implanted a chip from 24PetWatch.com in her. That was in 2006. I’ve never been billed by any company to maintain her registration.
    – My daughter’s dogs have the HomeAgain chip. She is billed annually for each dog to maintain their registrations.
    – So, my question is: If my dog is lost, will her contact info be accessed with the number on her chip; or has that been lost in the shuffle, because they never billed me for the upkeep?
    – Any wisdom you have for me is most welcome 🙂

  2. Homeagain will register ANY manufacturer’s chip, and the scanners we have should read any chip as well. All you need to do is stop in and have us scan! Then you can register with Homeagain. If you want to register with 24hourpetwatch.com, you can certainly do that when we have the number. 🙂

    Also, the annual billing from Homeagain is to provide the added benefits of their membership program. If you don’t want to pay for that stuff, they will ALWAYS retain your information in the database. They also will update that information for free if/when it changes.

    The added perks of the annual membership from Homeagain are detailed here: http://public.homeagain.com/lost-pet-database.html

  3. Karen Wahls

    Dr. Hutchinson, this is very good information and I hope pet owners take advantage of another opportunity to protect their pet by having them chipped. The only caution that I would like to add is that pets still wear a tag on the collar that notes the pet’s name and the word “micro chipped pet” .
    I’m not sure that everyone that might find a lost pet would even know about the micro chip option and if there is no address and phone number on the tag the finder wouldn’t think going to a vet or a shelter to have the pet scanned.
    Several years ago I rescued a beautiful Golden Retriever from a very busy highway near my home. She had no tags at all. After several hours of knocking on doors I still hadn’t located the owner. I took the dog home and a hour or so later a woman appeared at my house. One of her neighbors had told her that I had the dog. She had been out looking for her at the same time I was trying to find where the dog belonged. It turned out she was dog sitting the dog who belonged to her young nieces. She was very grateful and told me that the dog did have a chip. This was before the procedure was fairly new and I hadn’t even thought of it. If the dog had a tag with that information on it I would have immediately taken her to our vet to be scanned and saved a lot of time and anxiety on the part of the aunt .
    You and other veterinarians are doing your part to offer this to pet owners but I wish there would be more publicity so that pet rescuers would think of this avenue for returning a found pet.
    Karen Wahls

  4. Great points on the general lack of awareness of microchips and what to do.

    Most companies include a tag for the collar that indicates the pet has a chip, and it often has the chip# visible on it. Homeagain allows you to purchase metal tags as well – they’re pretty nice!

    Given the amount of advertising done by companies in the pet industry, I’m surprised that the microchips aren’t on national TV. It might have to do with the fact that they’re counting on veterinarians to educate clients about the chips in the first place.

    Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  5. I only hope that Pet-owners will do their own research before any micro-chipping. Those stories about happy reuniting pets and so great benefits only without any bad things about microchips implantations are really out of the game and smart people calling this sort of marketing: propaganda. Every product have its good things and bad things to discuss. NOT ONLY GOOD THINGS. People must realize that manufacturers are benefiting from implanting of microchips and this business is get more and more money from the people. In Europe micro-chipping dogs is now mandatory (it is law) and they are taking money from the people by force, people are submitted to police mandatory controls and situations are going bad more and more. USA is thank to God still free country and we can not allow something like this happened to our nation. So good conclusion is: First educate and if You still would like to be involved in those “chipping thing”, well, it is Your free choice, not mandatory dictate by the state or government. God Bless and choose wisely. 🙂

  6. What other bad things are you concerned about?

    It’s absolutely true that the microchip companies make money from the sale and placement of their chips. The chip that we utilize has a one-time fee to get you in the database. After that, you can choose to pay an annual fee for the extras or not — and your pet isn’t ever deleted from the database. There is a cost for running the service, which is paid for by consumers buying and having the chips placed.

    The way the majority of Europe handles pet ownership is a very very interesting cultural difference from how we handle things in the US.

  7. Thank You for Your kind reply.

    My main point is: As a responsible owner I can not be and will be not forced by anyone – especially not by the gov. – to buy, and implant any foreign body and undergo to police mandatory controls because someone would like to take my hard work money and to rob me,and my family and our home from freedom of choice, freedom of ownership and even freedom of walking with my pet in free country.

    I am living in Europe and they are now building a totalitarian police state via microchips and this is small tiny things are helping them to do that. Now people here can not even travel with pets from state to state without chips implanted in pets. All is mandatory. I can see how people are suffering in such regime – so this is not anymore abut freedom of choice and about good marketing skills: it is force. Brute force how to make money via state and mandate. I only hope that You folks in the USA will protect Your freedoms because we are here call those microchips system of new totalitarian regime. – And one must see that chips are already in passports, driver licenses, cards etc.

    So it is very complex thing and it is not only about find and trace Your stolen pets. Now it is about natural rights and protection of those rights. If You can not choose: this is not freedom, this is force.

    Our web page dedicated to hundreds of Anti-chipping arguments is here: http://www.necipujtenas.cz (only Czech language – You can use Google translate for example). We are collecting articles from all around the World and are trying to influence people to thinking and not to be like sheep to follow blindly only one side of the YES to chipping “thing”.

    Thank You for Your understanding. Our example here in Europe shows how microchipping can evolve in true monstrosity.

    Best Wishes from Europe to still free country of our World: USA. God Bless! 🙂

  8. Thanks for expanding on your comments! So far, in my state, there are no mandatory microchipping laws. It’s hard to predict where things will go, but I’m certain that I will continue to advocate what is in the best interest of my patients. At this point in time, the pet microchips are a passive system. The vast majority of the pet owners here do not have to have the chips scanned for any reason other than if a pet is lost. However, I have clients that have taken pets to other countries (in the EU and Asia), and microchips were required. Thank you for sharing your concerns with the other readers of the blog. Everyone can benefit from more information!

  9. I would like to thank You too for allowing me to debate here a little opposite point of view. It is rarely in our times to have such honest approach to micro-chipping questions as You have here. Well, many thanks to You again.

    If only more people would like to be like You, there certainly will be better world.

    God Bless and onward! 🙂

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