Microchipping a pet might seem minor, but its significance is anything but. In the world of pet care, this tiny device plays a pivotal role, acting as a beacon that guides lost pets back to their families. Yet, the effectiveness of a microchip is not solely in its technological marvel but in the details it carries and the community that supports its mission.

When the Unthinkable Happens

Despite our best efforts, the world is unpredictable. Animal Humane Society estimates that 1 and 3 pets go missing in their lifetime. If a pet does take an unexpected journey, remember that the microchip is the first line of defense in the quest to bring them home.

Veterinary professionals are essential in promoting and supporting microchipping as a vital aspect of pet care. By educating pet owners about the importance of microchipping and ensuring that pets are chipped and registered correctly, vets act as the first line of defense in reuniting lost pets with their families. Their expertise and advocacy help increase awareness and compliance, emphasizing the need for up-to-date contact information in the microchip database. Through routine check-ups and community outreach, veterinary professionals reinforce the message that microchipping is a simple yet crucial step in safeguarding pets’ well-being and enhancing their chances of being found if they go missing.

In this blog, we are reviewing the basics of microchipping, as it is crucial for veterinary professionals to have a comprehensive understanding of this technology and its profound impact on pet safety. By revisiting the fundamental aspects, we can ensure that every team member is well-equipped to educate pet owners effectively, address any misconceptions, and provide the best possible care.

Understanding the basics also highlights the importance of proper registration and keeping information up-to-date, which are essential to maximizing the benefits of microchipping. This foundational knowledge empowers veterinary professionals to advocate more strongly for microchipping, reinforcing its role as a lifesaving tool in everyday practice.

What is a Microchip and how does it work?

A pet microchip is a small electronic chip enclosed in a cylinder, roughly the size of a grain of rice. It’s a type of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) device. This technology doesn’t have its own power source; instead, it’s passive. It gets activated when a scanner is passed over it, emitting radio waves. These waves “wake up” the microchip, allowing it to transmit a unique identification number back to the scanner.

How it works:

  • Implantation: Using a hollow needle, the microchip is typically implanted under the pet’s skin, usually between the shoulder blades. This process is quick, similar to a regular vaccination, and does not require anesthesia. The procedure is often combined with a routine spay or neuter surgery to lessen any pain for the patient. However, this combination can sometimes be problematic. When microchipping is bundled with surgery, it can become cost-prohibitive for some pet owners. Additionally, with many pet parents delaying or opting out of sterilization, the opportunity to implant the microchip during surgery may be missed altogether. This highlights the importance of educating pet owners about the standalone benefits and accessibility of microchipping, ensuring it remains a priority even if surgery is not immediately planned.
  • Identification: Each microchip carries a unique identification number. This number doesn’t store personal contact details directly on the chip. Instead, it’s used to retrieve the pet owner’s contact information from a pet recovery database.
  • Activation: When a scanner is passed over the area where the microchip is implanted, the radio waves from the scanner activate the chip. The microchip then transmits its ID number back to the scanner. It’s important to clarify that the microchip does not emit radio waves alone. The chip remains inactive until scanned, ensuring it does not interfere with the pet’s health or emit any signals during everyday activities. This passive nature of the microchip makes it a safe and reliable method for identifying lost pets and reuniting them with their families.
  • Database Lookup: The unique ID number read by the scanner is used to access a database where the pet’s owner’s contact details are stored. This is why keeping contact information up-to-date in the microchip database is crucial for the system to work effectively.

It’s important to note that microchips are not GPS devices. They do not track the pet’s location or provide real-time updates on where the pet is. Their primary function is to store a unique ID number that, when scanned, can help reunite lost pets by providing a way to contact the pet parent. This system relies on the pet being found and brought to a facility (like a shelter or vet’s office) equipped with a microchip scanner.

It’s All in the Details

The true power of a microchip hinges on the accuracy of the information it’s linked to. It’s not just about having a microchip; it’s about making sure the microchip has something meaningful to say. Changed phone number? Moved? Updated email address? These are all cases where contact information needs to be updated.

To update a pet’s microchip information, contact the registry where the pet’s microchip is registered. There are several major microchip registries, and the process of updating information can vary slightly between them.

How to Update a Pet Microchip:

  1. Identify the Microchip Brand and Registry: If the brand of the pet’s microchip (e.g., PetLink, HomeAgain, AVID, etc.) is known, go directly to the company’s website. If unknown, there are several universal microchip lookup tools online, such as the AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool, to determine which registry the chip is registered with. To do this, the microchip number must be known. It can often be found on paperwork from a breeder, rescue, or veterinarian*
  2. Log In or Contact the Registry: Once the registry has been identified, the pet parent must log into their account on their website or contact customer service by phone or email. If an account still needs to be set up, that must be done before proceeding.
  3. Update Information: Once logged in or in contact with customer service, the pet parent can then update their address, phone number, email, and any other relevant contact information. *Some registries may charge a small fee for updating information or offer premium services for additional benefits.
  4. Verify the Update: After updating, it’s wise to check or confirm with the registry that the changes have been processed correctly.
  5. Consider Multiple Registries: Some pet parents register their pet’s microchip with multiple registries or a universal registry to increase the chances of a quick reunion if their pet is lost.

If the pet parent doesn’t have the microchip number or is unsure about which registry to contact, they can ask a local veterinarian or shelter to scan their pet’s microchip and help identify the correct registry.

⭐ Keeping microchip registration information up-to-date is one of the most effective ways to ensure a pet’s safe return should they go missing.

A Tiny Chip, A Titanic Difference

In the end, microchipping is about preparation, about setting the stage for happy endings, about ensuring that no matter what happens, a found pet has a voice, and that voice can guide them back to their loving home.

Visit our FREE microchip resource hub!

These free resources will provide you with tools to ensure each pet is scanned appropriately and educate pet parents about the benefits as well as the importance of maintaining accurate microchip information.