What is Microchipping – And Why Should You Do It?

Microchipping your pet has become a more popular trend over the years, one offered by most vets at the pets first wellness visit. What are microchips, where did they come from, and why are they so important for your pet, though? Here are all the facts about this tiny device, no bigger than a grain of rice, that can be the most valuable purchase you make for your pet’s health.

The History of Microchipping:
This small computer, inserted under your pet’s shoulder blade and activated by a handheld scanner, can hold all their identifying information. The chip releases a unique code, read by the scanner, which is connected with a profile on the manufacturer database. This database, which enables storing information such as owner address and contact info, health problems, and veterinarian information, enables pets to be returned to their owners if separated.

This identification system, both difficult to lose and fool proof when used correctly, is one of the best ways to ensure your pet comes back to you if they become lost. It also is only the most recent product in a long line of technology designed to return lost animals to owners.

As a major proponent of microchipping, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has excellent information available about microchipping. While they have been referenced for this article, you can read more about the subject on their website.

Microchipping pets to track their movements is just the latest step of a long line of animal tracking methods. Tattooing on the ears and lips, branding, ear tags, and now microchips are all steps in the effort to return animals to people whenever they get lost. It was only in 1996 that pets had official microchip standards, when the members of The American National Standard Institute voted to set a standard frequency for microchips1.

This move to standardize set the industry buzzing with widespread acceptance and soon the AVMA and other national pet health organizations threw their recommendation in for microchipping. Now, most countries require microchipping pets and several manufacturers of microchips work to compete in the market. If your pet came from a breeder or a shelter, chances are they have a microchip.

Despite this rapid adoption of microchipping, there have been several controversial factors. Because different companies compete to prove their products superior, different microchips sometimes read at different frequencies. This means that, while the standard frequency is 125-kHz, your pet’s chip might read differently. It is possible to miss a microchip which has a non-standard frequency, simply because the wand does not pick up the chip’s signal.

Another downfall of the system is that there is no central database for registered chips. This means that pets who are microchipped in a different country, who will always carry the original country’s tracking code, may not show up on the database in their new country. This has led to mean internationally traveling (and even domestically traveling) pets failing to meet up with their owners.

Why You Should Microchip Your Pet:
The reason for this explosive acceptance of the microchipping world is that studies show a pet who is chipped is very likely to be returned to their owner. To be exact, 74% of dogs who are microchipped are returned to their owner and 63.5% of lost cats are returned to their owners when microchipped2. Essentially, chipping your pets creates a safety net for if they become lost that they will return to you.

Microchipping is such a respected method of tracking pets that microchipping displaced pets in emergency shelters has now become the guidelines during emergencies, recommended by the National Animal Disaster Summit in 20061. While Michigan rarely has natural disasters requiring evacuation, it is better to be prepared for these instances with thorough identification in place.

How to Make Sure Your Pet Comes Back:
Even once your pet is microchipped, your job is not quite done. The microchip stores a unique identifying code which is linked to their online profile. This information, however, is only good if it is accurate. The most common reason for microchipped animals not being reunited is incorrect or disconnected contact information listed on their profile, which happens when owners do not update their pet’s information after life changes.

While your vet may recommend you to update your information on the database at your yearly check-up, please be sure to set a reminder for yourself to check their information once a year.

Have you chosen to skip microchipping or are you a fan of this digital tracking system? Please let us know your opinion about this new technology in the comments!

1 Microchipping of Animals. (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2018, from

2 Lord, L. K., Ingwersen, W., Gray, J. L., & Wintz, D. J. (2009). Characterization of animals with microchips entering animal shelters. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 235(2), 160-167. doi:10.2460/javma.235.2.160

Blog author Lauren Pescarus is an admitted Cat Person who admires all pets from afar. She lives at home in Romania with her husband, and loves to buy things for the pets she will soon convince her lucky spouse to bring home. For more information about Lauren’s writing services, follow this LINK.

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