Microchipping your Pet

Pet Tales
by Barry B. Burtis D.V.M.

There are certainly many good things about the warm weather months. I confess I am an unabashed lover of this time of year. However, there are some downsides. One of these is a definite increase in lost pets. It seems guaranteed that with the return of spring and summer also comes the return of phone calls to our hospital or flyers mailed, faxed or hand delivered to us reporting often heart breaking stories of a cherished pet lost.

On one hand I can understand why this is so. Pets are outside their home, often unsupervised, more frequently. People are traveling, camping or visiting new places, often accompanied by their pet. It's just easier for them to wander off, get lost or for some reason just be unable to get back home. On the other hand, I say why is it that people still so often fail to utilize the tremendous resources we now have to improve the odds that a lost pet will be returned safely home. Specifically, may I respectfully urge that you have your pet microchipped, if you have not done so already.

Just in case there are any pet owners failing to take this action because of a lack of information about the procedure, I want to debunk a few microchipping myths.

The myth: The implantation procedure is too expensive. The truth: There may be some variation from one veterinarian to another but in our area it will likely cost somewhere between $30 and $50. In most instances it is a one time fee; the chip never needs maintenance or replacement. A small fee may be required if you need to change the contact number in your database. Still, compare the cost of making flyers to distribute through the neighbourhood, taking time off work to search for a lost pet and the emotional toll on the whole family. Microchipping is such a bargain!

The myth: It's going to hurt my pet to have the chip implanted.
The truth: Microchipping is simple, routine and painless. It does not require sedation or anesthesia. A computer chip - about the size of a grain of rice - is injected just under the loose skin between the shoulder blades. It's very similar to being vaccinated. Most pets aren't bothered at all.

The myth: Every animal microchipped couldn't possibly receive a unique number. My pet's number will be duplicated. The truth: With today's technology these tiny microchips can hold huge amounts of information. In fact, microchips are designed to produce 275 billion different numbers. Every pet has its own individual number. It's likely in the near future microchips will be able to be scanned for much more information than just an identification number.

The myth: Veterinarians and animal shelters probably often don't have scanners or don't bother to use them even if they do. The truth: In Canada virtually all animal control services and veterinarians have a microchip reader. Even though there are different microchip companies, there are universal scanners that can read any chip regardless of manufacturer. It is so quick and easy to scan an animal it can simply be a routine procedure when checking an animal.
The myth: My cat never goes outside. It doesn't need a microchip ID. The truth: Living inside is the safest way for an urban cat to live. However, surveys have shown that 90% of cats reported to live inside, on further questioning of the owner, are revealed to have been outside once or more in the previous 2 years. Doors are left open, window screens come loose, cats sneak out doors past the most vigilant owner. Don't take any chances your pet can get outside without ID.

The myth: Having a foreign object inside my pet's body surely must be a danger. The truth: Veterinarians have been implanting microchips in animals for years. It has been proven to be very safe. The chip is made out of an inert, biocompatible substance. It won't cause any allergic reaction and it won't degenerate over time. They won't move inside the body to endanger any internal organ.

So, microchipping is safe, effective and dependable. It won't absolutely guarantee a lost pet will be found but I believe it's the best identification method yet to ensure that if it is, it will be safely returned. Also, there is no reason that you can't double ID. I think it's a good idea for your pet to wear a rabies tag and a collar with the owner's name, address and telephone number somewhere attached or inscribed.
With these few measures you can enjoy the warm weather and the increased assurance your pet will be with you to enjoy it, also.