Last month the Huffington Post (link to reported a story about a family who was reunited with their lost dog, “Princess,” who had escaped from their California home over six years ago – thanks to a good Samaritan and a microchip. Every year millions of pets are lost and according to statistics only 15-20% of dogs and 2% of cats without identification are returned to their owners. Those numbers jump to 52% for dogs and 38% for cats when these animals have registered microchips, and these numbers are growing as new scanner models with the ability to read multiple types of chips are becoming standard.

Microchips are devices that use radio-frequency identification (RFID) to transmit stored information (a unique identification number) to a device that interprets it (a scanner). About the size of a large grain of rice, the chip is implanted under the skin of an animal, usually at the back of the neck or between the shoulder blades for dogs and cats, using a hypodermic needle. The process is generally quick and involves minimal pain – your pet will only experience discomfort as they would when being given a vaccination shot. Once the chip is implanted, many veterinarians will register your pet with a recovery service, otherwise the owner needs to make sure they do so themselves – providing their pet’s identification number and their contact information to an agency that manages a database of this information.

If a lost pet is found by local authorities or taken to a shelter it will first be scanned to see if a chip is present. If so, they will contact recovery service agencies to get the

contact information of the owner and can then notify the owner of the location of their missing pet. In the United States, microchipping services are unregulated so that means there are multiple recovery agencies managing pet databases, and multiple types of chips, that can sometimes lead to incompatibility issues between the chips and scanners. Despite this hindrance, microchips are generally very helpful in returning lost pets and most veterinarians and pet experts recommend giving your pet a microchip implant.

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