PhotoDoes your dog or cat have a microchip? Microchips are tiny transponders, about the size of a grain of rice, that are implanted in your pet between the shoulder blades, providing a permanent means of identification. The implantation is no more painful than a vaccination, and most pets don’t even notice when it is happening.

Each microchip has a unique identification number, and you enroll that number in a microchip registry with your pet’s profile and your contact information, for a nominal fee. If your dog or cat is ever lost, and then found, a veterinary hospital or shelter will scan for a microchip, and alert the microchip registry that the animal was found. The registry then contacts you. Some registries, like HomeAgain, also send out email alerts when you report your dog lost, and have apps for your smart phone.

Unlike collars or tags, the microchip is permanent, and can’t be pulled off or lost. And microchips have been responsible for thousands of reunions, including some amazing stories of animals missing for years that are now home with their families because of microchips.

Success story

Last month, a cat named Bogie was reunited with his family after being lost at Honolulu International Airport as the family was moving to Michigan. Nineteen months later, Bogie was caught living with a feral cat colony at the airport, and thanks to his microchip, he was rapidly identified and reunited with his family.

In 2006, a Boxer named Boozer went missing from Tennessee. Picked up by someone, he was kept for 9 years, then turned into a shelter in Colorado when that person moved and could no longer have a dog. The Colorado shelter scanned him, and his Tennessee family, who never expected to see their dog again, were notified that their missing Boozer was in Colorado. Reunited with Boozer just a few days ago, the family is ecstatic to have him home.

Internationally, a dog named Emile was originally microchipped and registered in England. When his family moved to France, they changed to a French registry, but when Emile went missing, he was rescued from a highway by an Italian truck driver, who took him to Italy. Scanned for a chip in Italy, Emile and his family were reunited thanks to the Europetnet microchip database.

Ask your vet

If you love your dog or cat, and it isn’t yet microchipped, ask your vet about it on your next visit. The average cost for microchipping in this country is less than $50, and often includes the fee for registration. You can also check with your local Humane Society, municipal shelter, SPCA or spay/neuter clinic for a lower-cost alternative. Vetco, the veterinary clinics at Petco stores throughout the country, offer microchipping for only $15.

If your pet is already microchipped, and the chip has not been checked for placement recently, you should have your pet scanned to make sure that the chip is easily readable, since there are rare cases of chips migrating to other parts of an animal’s body. This Saturday, August 15 is Check the Chip Day, sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association. This event is to encourage having microchips checked for placement, and remind people to update their registration information.

Remember, to greatly increase the chances of a lost pet returning to you, follow these steps:

  1. Microchip the dog or cat

  2. Register that microchip

  3. Have your vet check for placement with each vet visit

  4. Regularly check that the registry information is up-to-date, with current phone numbers and addresses.

For more information, try these websites:

AVMA Microchipping FAQs

Check the Chip Day

Vetco Clinics

HomeAgain® Microchips and Registry


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