Most vets and animal shelters recommend that your pet is microchipped. A microchip is not a GPS satellite system, able to track and give the exact location of your pet.
Instead, it is a small glass bead about the size of a grain of rice, which contains a radio transmitter, an antenna, and a computer chip with a 10-digit code. It is implanted between an animal’s shoulder blades and when scanned by an animal practitioner, it tells them the address and telephone number of the animal’s owner.
For those of you who are still considering a microchip for your dog, there are a few important things you should know first.
Will the implantation procedure hurt my dog?
The majority of vets are likely to tell you that microchipping is a relatively painless procedure. However, a 12-guage needle is used to insert the chip, so some veterinarians would not even consider microchipping without some form of local anesthetic. You know your dog better than anyone else. If your dog becomes distressed easily, or doesn’t have a high pain threshold, then insist on anesthetic.
Potential problems caused by microchipping
Pet microchips have been known to move under the skin and end up in a different place to where they were inserted. It has even been recorded that some chips have been to migrate underneath the shoulder blade or up to the back of the neck, and sometimes even all the way down to the belly!
Once your dog has been microchipped, make sure you ask your vet to scan it each time you visit them, to ensure it is still in the correct position, right between their shoulder blades.
You also need to ensure that your contact information on your dog’s chip, including your telephone number, is kept up to date; so that you can easily be contacted in the event of your dog going missing.
Are microchips necessary?
There are risks and benefits to microchipping your dog, and it’s up to you to weigh up the benefits of each before you make your decision.
93% of dogs that are lost each year are reunited with their owners, and it is often because the dog had a microchip that could be scanned, that helped animal practitioners locate their owner. If your dog is highly independent, and often goes off wandering by himself, then you may want to consider microchipping them.
If your pet does not listen very well to your verbal commands to return to you, or they enjoy running out the door and bolting down the street any chance they get, then a microchip may be a good idea.
The major risk of microchips
There will always be a concern any time you implant a foreign body into the body of an animal, that their body may reject it and an infection could occur. There have only been two documented cases in veterinary medicine where a sarcoma or fibrosarcoma, two types of soft tissue tumors, occurred at the site of the injection.
If you are concerned about the risks microchips may pose to your dog, the best thing to do is to mostly keep them on a leash when you go for walks, and only let them off the leash when you can absolutely ensure they are properly trained to listen to your verbal cues to return to you.
However, if your dog doesn’t always come back to you when you call them, and no amount of professional obedience training has solved this situation, then microchipping your dog poses less of a risk than potentially losing them.
Are there other options?
An alternative way to mark your pet without implantation under the skin is by tattooing. A phone number or address can be tattooed onto your pet’s thigh while they are under anesthesia. However, if you do this, you will have to commit to the same address or telephone number for the duration of your dog’s life.
Microchipping continues to be a highly debated topic in veterinary medicine, and it’s important that you weigh up the risks and benefits when deciding on microchipping. This will help you make the best decision for your dog.