Cat and puppy lying side-by-side in the grass

Microchips Help Lost Pets Get Back Home

Each year on August 15, we join the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) in observing National Check the Chip Day—a day set aside to remind owners of microchipped pets to confirm the accuracy of the information on file at the chip registry.

Given that only about 6 of every 10 microchips are registered, it’s also a great day to register your pet’s chip number if you haven’t yet done so. The chip is worthless unless you register it and then keep the information current.

And if you haven’t yet had your pet microchipped, Check the Chip day is ideal for scheduling an appointment with us to implant your pet’s microchip.

Why Have Your Pet Microchipped?

One of every three family pets will get lost at some point during their lifetime. 

Dogs with microchips are more than twice as likely to be returned home to their owners.

Cats with microchips are more than 20 times as likely to be returned home to their owners.

American Veterinary Medical Association

Because of microchips, pets and owners have been reunited from hundreds of miles away, sometimes years after the pets were lost.

While one study found owners’ efforts were successful in recovering a lost dog only 13% of the time, the detection of a microchip by an animal shelter resulted in a 74.1% return rate to owners.

Researchers have also found that the owners of nearly three-fourths of lost, microchipped cats and dogs were located because of the microchip.

When lost or stolen microchipped pets don’t make it back home, it’s usually because of incorrect or missing owner information in the microchip registry.

One former shelter manager estimates as many as half of pets with microchips entering shelters have chips that haven’t been registered at all, have disconnected phone numbers and outdated contact information in the registry or are registered to former owners who don’t have contact information for the current owner.

That’s why it’s so important to check the chip!

How Microchips Work

Microchips are cylindrical devices about the size of a grain of rice implanted under your pet’s skin using a hypodermic needle. The microchip device has a capacitor, an antenna, connecting wire and a covering. When activated by a low-power radio frequency signal from the scanner, the microchip transmits its unique identification number to the scanner display. 

Microchips are not tracking devices and contain no information about you or your pet. All they can transmit is the identification number.

The AVMA classifies the implantation of microchips as “a veterinary procedure that should be performed by a licensed veterinarian or under supervision of a licensed veterinarian.” Veterinarians and trained veterinary technicians know precisely where and how microchips should be placed. Improperly inserted microchips have been known to malfunction and can cause serious disabilities or even death. 

Unlike external identification tags on pets’ collars, which can easily be lost, removed, altered or replaced, microchips provide permanent, unalterable identification for an animal. Your pet should have both.

Once the microchip is implanted, you must register the chip number and keep the registration updated for the life of your pet. 

More About Microchips

In less than 15 minutes, you can learn even more about microchips by watching “How do pet microchips work?”—a YouTube video by Brigid Wasson of First Street Pets. 

Wasson’s companion article to the video is on the First Street Pets website.

Here’s Wasson’s article, “Which pet microchip registry is the best?” listing the top five microchip registries. See the accompanying video, “Top 5 pet microchip registries for 2023” on YouTube.

Finally, see Wasson’s video, “Register Your Pet’s microchip in 5 minutes” for a quick overview of the registration process.

How to Check the Chip

If your pet has already been microchipped, step one is to find your pet’s microchip number. 

Look for the paperwork you received when you had the chip implanted or log in to the account you set up when you registered the chip with the manufacturer. 

The microchip number may also be displayed on a tag on your pet’s collar, if the chip manufacturer supplied one. (Since anyone can register any chip number using any contact information, you may choose not to display your pet’s microchip number on a collar tag.)

If you can’t find the microchip number, ask us to scan your pet the next time you’re at the clinic for an appointment. Assuming your pet’s microchip transponder is still working, the scanner will reveal the microchip number. We suggest you write it down for future reference. 

After this initial scan for the chip number, ask to have your pet’s microchip scanned each year as part of the annual exam to confirm it’s still working and can be detected.

Next, to confirm where your pet’s microchip is registered, visit the AAHA Microchip Registry Lookup website. This is the database veterinarians and shelter personnel consult when trying to find the owner of a found microchipped pet. 

Type in your pet’s microchip number and, if the number is registered with any of nearly 40 registries, the manufacturer and any registries associated with that chip number will be displayed, showing the date the registration was last updated and contact information for the registry. 

The AAHA Microchip Registry does not provide owner information. To register, review and update your registration information, you must call the registry or visit the registry website and log in to your account. 

The Downsides of Microchipping

Problems with properly implanted microchips are very rare. 

The British Small Animal Veterinary Association has tracked adverse reactions to microchips since 1996. Of more than 4 million animals microchipped, only 391 adverse reactions have been reported.

Of these, the most common problem reported is the migration of the microchip from its original implantation site. Other, much less common problems reported included failure of the microchip, hair loss, infection, swelling and tumor formation.

Odds Are, Your Pet Isn’t Yet Microchipped

While many dogs and cats wear external identification tags on their collars—as they all should—on average, only 3-4% of dogs and fewer than 1% of cats arriving at shelters are microchipped.

If you are like most pet owners and haven’t yet had a microchip implanted in your pet, we strongly encourage you to do so. 

To minimize your pet’s possible discomfort from the injection, we suggest having us implant a microchip when your pet is under anesthesia for surgery or a dental procedure. 

If you don’t anticipate the need for anesthesia anytime soon, ask us to implant a microchip at your next visit to the clinic or schedule an appointment expressly for us to insert the microchip. And register the microchip right away.

Should your pet be lost or stolen, you’ll be glad you did!