The difference between your lost pet returning home and becoming only a memory is the size of a grain of rice. Pet microchips save countless lives each year by reuniting lost dogs and cats with their owners. With 15 percent of dogs and cats becoming lost at least once in a five-year period, and 70 million owned dogs and 80 million cats in the United States, you can’t afford to not microchip your pet.

At Somerset Animal Hospital, we are often asked about microchip safety, efficacy, and significance, so we’ve compiled the following questions and answers to help you make an informed decision. 

Question: Will the microchip locate my pet?

Answer: The microchip does not have tracking or GPS capabilities, contain a battery, or transmit a signal, and cannot locate your pet. Your pet’s chip is untraceable until the pet is brought to an animal shelter or veterinary hospital, where an operator will use a handheld microchip scanner, which operates at a specific radio frequency, and activates the microchip. The scanner reads the chip’s unique number that is displayed on a small screen. The first code numbers indicate your pet’s microchip manufacturer, and the following string of numbers collectively make up your pet’s unique microchip identification number. 

Q: Is my information stored on the chip? Can other people read my information?

A: None of your personal information is stored on your pet’s microchip. The microchip is programmed only with the unique identification number, which is detectable only with a microchip scanner. When the shelter or hospital scans your pet, they contact the manufacturer database with the chip number, and the database contacts you with your missing pet’s whereabouts. 

However, you must register your pet’s microchip to be contacted. No matter where your pet’s chip was implanted (i.e., breeder, shelter, or veterinary hospital), the pet owner is responsible for registering the chip. While you can provide as much, or as little, contact information as you choose for your pet’s profile, you must update your pet’s information if you relocate or change your phone number. In one study, only 58 percent of chips scanned at 53 shelters were registered, making the other 42 percent useless. Registering and updating your contact information is critical toward ensuring your pet’s full protection, and must not be overlooked. 

Q: Do microchips cause cancer?

A: According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, of the millions of microchipped pets, only two dogs and two cats have been reported with microchip-related tumors. The microchip was never the proven cause of two of those tumors. Microchips are coated in a bio-safe covering to prevent inappropriate reactions in the body.

After implantation, your pet’s body will form a fibrous tissue layer around the microchip. A small knot or lump may be palpable under the skin where the microchip was placed, which is a normal body reaction, and a desirable response. The scarring fixes the microchip in place and prevents migration. As long as the knot does not increase in size or become painful, there is no cause for concern. 

Q: Should I wait until my pet has a procedure under anesthesia to have them microchipped?

A: You do not need to wait. Pets are routinely microchipped during outpatient appointments at Somerset Animal Hospital. Although owners are often alarmed at the large hypodermic needle required to implant the microchip, pets experience only minor discomfort, and the entire procedure takes only slightly longer than a vaccination. 

Q: How can I know my pet’s microchip is working?

A:  We recommend having your pet’s microchip scanned at their annual appointment. Scanning is fast and painless, and allows us to confirm the chip’s location, and proper function. Microchips are generally implanted in the subcutaneous tissue space between the pet’s shoulder blades, but they can migrate over time if they do not scar. To account for migration, and ensure no microchips are missed, shelters and veterinary hospitals thoroughly scan each pet over their entire body. 

If your pet’s microchip has migrated, we will record the new location in their chart. Typically, microchips do not move beyond the shoulders and forechest, well in easy scanning range. If we cannot detect your pet’s microchip, we may take an X-ray to confirm its absence, and recommend reimplantation. Although rare, microchips may fall out if implanted incorrectly.

Q: If my pet is microchipped, should they still wear a collar?

A: The microchip does not replace external identification, such as a collar, harness, and tags. The microchip’s permanence assures your pet lifelong identification, but collars and tags are still the most obvious sign of an owned pet, and the fastest way for them to be returned home. 

Keeping identification information up to date is also vital. Tags can fall off, or may become scratched, or unreadable. Regularly check your pet’s tags, including their rabies tag, and replace as needed.

Are you unsure about your pet’s microchip status? Don’t waitschedule an appointment at Somerset Animal Hospital for us to scan your pet. If your pet is already microchipped, we can give you the number and manufacturer. If not, we can implant a chip and help you register your pet right away.