Microchipping Your Pet

It was a dark and stormy night (Yeah, it really was. In Seattle what else could it be?), and I was taking out the garbage. As I opened the back door I was startled to see a very large lab mix standing there in front of me.  I jumped back initially thinking this might be Kujo getting ready to rip out my larynx, but then I realized this was a very friendly, sweet animal  who was just trying to figure out where home was.  And I was reminded, once again (as the husband of impassioned veterinarian), just how important pet micro-chipping is. Here was a well-cared for, very lovely pet who someone, somewhere (probably somewhere close) loved.

But how to find that someone, that was the question. This was a job for a professional, so I called in the big guns: “Hey honey, there’s a lost dog at the back door. You want to check this out?”

Flash Gordon to the rescue. Within a minute my wife had corralled the dog, discovered he (actually, she) had no ID of any kind, and called the local 24-hour emergency clinic (EC) to arrange for overnight accommodations. Within 2 minutes, she was out the door on her way to the emergency clinic, despite the fact that she is rarely on time for any event in her life.

At least I know what motivates her to be on time now.

The first thing the EC did was to check for a micro-chip. Yep, that’s right: NCOTP! (No Chip On This Pet).

As it turns out, luckily, it was a happy ending for the dog, though this is the exception, not the rule. She was reunited with her family 3 days later, after much work on everyone’s part, family and clinic alike.

She was among the fortunate few.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA),

  • Only about 22 percent of lost dogs that entered the animal shelters were reunited with their families.
  • However, the return-to-owner rate for micro-chipped dogs was over 52 percent (a 238 percent increase).
  • Less than 2 percent of lost cats that entered the animal shelters were reunited with their families. The return-to-owner rate for micro-chipped cats was dramatically higher at over 38 percent (more than 2000 percent better).

If you’re thinking this could never happen to your pet, consider the confluence of events that might lead to this problem:

  • you meant to get the dog a license tag but just haven’t had time.
  • someone in the family left a door ajar and Fido or Fifi just walked out to explore the world.
  • you have a fenced yard but someone forgot to fully close the gate.
  • you have a Labrador retriever and a fenced yard, but the dog dug under the fence and now you’re putting up posters on telephone poles all over the neighborhood.
  • You have an indoor cat, but one of the kids left a window open and now she’s gone.

Think it can’t happen?  Well IT HAPPENS TO A THIRD OF ALL PETS! According to the Humane Society:

  • One out of every three pets will become lost during their lifetime.
  • 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen in the U.S. every year.

That’s a lot of pets. That’s a lot of millions. Here’s another interesting statistic from Home Again, a major microchip registration organization:  90% of all pets lost without I.D. will not return home.

So the only question is: Why wouldn’t you microchip your pet? It’s the least expensive pet insurance you could possibly purchase and ups the odds of finding your pet astronomically.

If you’re concerned about health risks or just have questions, read the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Q & A on this subject or the Humane Societies position; or just call us.

No bigger than a grain of rice, a pet microchip is a radio transponder encased within a slender capsule of bio-glass, a substance designed to bond to soft tissue and bone used extensively for implants in both humans and animals to prevent chip migration. Positioned in between the front shoulder blades, the chip serves as a unique identifier for your pet. It will last for the life of the pet and, providing that the chip has been registered, lost pets can then be scanned by almost any veterinary hospital and owners located quickly, usually within hours.

Micro-chipped pets do have to be registered with a pet recovery data base so their information is on file (we recommend Avid), but this is almost always done as part of the micro-chipping process. However, make sure to ask your vet about registration. As of 2014, 42% of micro-chipped pets were NOT registered.

It is this registration in a pet recovery database that links the pet to the owner’s contact information.