In many parts of the country and even the world, microchipping of dogs and cats is compulsory. A microchip is a tiny electronic circuit that is implanted under the skin of a pet, usually in the area between the shoulder blades. Each chip is numbered, and this number is stored with the pet parent’s details in a central database. Should a pet go missing, a handheld scanner can read the number and the pet parent’s contact details can be retrieved.
Microchipping has been responsible for the safe return of many lost pets to their homes. It has also been helpful in identifying the right pet parent if there are any disputes about to which family a pet really belongs. There are many advantages to having your dog or cat microchipped.
A microchip can’t get lost. It remains under your pet’s skin although it may move a little from the site of implant. Unlike an identity tag, it won’t fall off or become difficult to read. It’s also quite cheap to implant a chip and register a pet. It’s a permanent way of proving that you are the pet parent of your four-legged companion.
Where there are advantages, there are always disadvantages. There are indeed a few concerns about the use of microchips, but they’re usually not a significant problem.
Firstly, the needle used to implant the chip is quite big, and can be uncomfortable especially for little pets. This is easy to remedy; vets can use a small amount of local anesthetic to numb the implant area and this avoids the pain of the needle.
Secondly, there is a very small chance of bacterial skin infection due to the penetration of the needle. To be honest, in 25 years of practice I’ve never seen this happen, so it’s rare. However, it does need to be mentioned as a possibility.
Thirdly, microchips can move under the skin. My Whippet now has his microchip over his left shoulder blade and it’s easy to feel. This means the person wielding the scanner needs to be aware that if they can’t find a chip between the shoulder blades, they should scan a pet’s whole body.
There have been questions raised as to whether microchips have been implicated in the development of cancer in pets. Many horses, dogs, and cats have had chips implanted over the years and some have had it for a very long time with no problems at all. Veterinarians haven’t seen any huge increase in the number of cancers in the area of the usual microchip implant sites; therefore, the risk is thought to be negligible.
It’s fair to say that the benefits of microchipping significantly outweigh the very minor risks. Every week, our clinic is presented with a stray dog or cat and if they have a microchip, it’s easy to return them to their family. The outcome is less pleasant for those pets without a chip as they’re taken to the local animal shelter to wait until their pet parents claim them. If your pets aren’t chipped yet, it’s a good idea to have that done. It can be the difference between getting them home to you quickly if they have wandered off and having them spend a less than comfortable few hours or days at the shelter.