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Microchipping Your Dog: Things You Should Know

According to the ASPCA website, as many as 3.1 million dogs enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. The majority of these animals are abandoned, stray, or surrendered. A number of the animals assumed to be abandoned could be lost and not registered in the town they were found. This causes a problem for shelters and dog owners. Trying to find a pet that has no microchip is a long and heartbreaking situation.

Luckily the statistics show that most microchipped animals do find their families when displaced. Science Daily states that owners were found for 72.7 percent of microchipped animals, this number includes cats and dogs. Out of those microchipped animals, 73.9 percent of the owners wanted the animals back in their homes.

So how does microchipping work? What happens when your dog ends up in the shelter? Most likely if your dog ends up at the shelter it has been picked up by your local animal control officer first. In the state of Massachusetts animal control is mandated to scan for a microchip. This results in the easy and almost immediate placement of the animal back into your care. The chip is scanned and the officer contacts the establishment to which the scan provides. The owner is contacted and if all vaccines and licensing are up to date you can retrieve your furry family member right away. Chances are when your pet is lost locally you will have a better chance of retrieving them, but what about when you are traveling with your dog? This is a crucial time to make sure your microchip is working. In this situation, you're both in uncharted territory. Always make sure your microchip is functioning properly before you travel.

Although it sounds like an invasive technique, microchipping a dog is really a simple procedure and some owners even do it themselves and register their dogs online. A kit can be purchased through the mail. Most pet owners opt to have the procedure done at the veterinarian’s office for a small fee of around $25-$60, depending on the state they live in. The procedure is done by inserting a needle into the dog's skin, usually between the shoulder blades, as this is the best place to put the microchip because it is less likely to be irritated by the physical activity of the dog. This keeps the chip in place and eliminates any irritation or shifting of the chip below the dog's skin surface.

There are unknowns to having Microchipping done to your dog as well. Most people don’t realize that there is a life span of approximately 12-20 years but the chips have been known to fail earlier. Most chips cannot be identified by touch because the chip can move into the muscle of the dog. You can test the strength and location of your dog’s microchip by purchasing a scanner online. Purchasing a home scanner is a simple way to check the strength and location of your dog’s microchip to ensure its effectiveness. If the microchip scanner does not locate the chip while searching your pet, try scanning other parts of your dog to make sure that the microchip has not shifted locations. If the microchip has migrated, it is not detrimental to your pet's health. You can contact your veterinarian to confirm its location and address any concerns. Also, have your vet document the location of the microchip. Always scan to ensure your chip is working properly before taking your dog on vacation. This ensures that if your dog becomes lost at an unfamiliar location the animal control officer in that area has a head start at retrieving your dog. If you haven’t purchased a home device pop into your veterinarian or local shelter just to make sure your chip is working properly before heading off on vacation.

There could be some unfavorable situations when microchipping your dog. Aside from the migration of the chip itself, sometimes the chip malfunctions and doesn’t work when scanned. There have been reports of infections at the injection site. In rare situations, tumors have developed at the location. In a very low percentage, some life-threatening microchipping occurrences may have been caused by a microchip. There are newer studies released with concerns about cancers being linked to microchipping. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) states, “the risk that your animal will develop cancer due to its microchip is very, very low, and is far outweighed by the improved likelihood that you will get your animal back if it becomes lost.” We always recommend that you talk to your veterinarian to come up with the best solution for you and your dog.

Lastly, many people mistakenly think the microchip can be located like a GPS device. A microchip holds your dog's information, it can not be used to locate a lost or stolen animal. Oftentimes people get their dog microchipped but forget to register the dog online. This is a big mistake. Your dog needs to be registered in the database. Follow the instruction from your veterinarian, because each device could require a separate registration platform. Having a pet scanner at home for personal use is a smart way to keep track of your dog’s microchip by verifying its physical location in case the chip is migrating. It also ensures that the chip is working properly.


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