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Microchipping and IDing Your Pet



When it comes to keeping tabs on your pup, nothing is more permanent than a good ID tag and a microchip. There are, however, many misconceptions about how a microchip works. Continue reading to learn about the function of a microchip and the best ways to ensure that if your pet ever gets lost, they can be found and returned to you.


The Function of a Microchip:


A microchip is about as large as a grain of rice and is usually inserted under a pet’s skin between their shoulder blades in what is called subcutaneous (SQ) space. Since there is a fair amount of SQ space in dogs and cats, it is common for the microchip to migrate or move around a little over time. This is why you will notice that when people scan pets for a microchip, they check all over their bodies.


The microchip contains an identifying number that is associated with its manufacturer. Think of it as your pet's permanent ID number. Most microchips can be read with a universal microchip scanner (more on this later). Microchips are meant to transmit their identifying number for about 25 years.


A microchip itself does not contain any owner information or have the ability to track a pet with GPS. The number that a microchip scanner reads will direct the person who scans it (at a vet’s office, shelter, or rescue organization) to call the manufacturer and have them look up the number. The manufacturer has owner and pet information associated with the number provided and will reach out directly to the owner. This is why it is incredibly important to register your information with the microchip manufacturer and keep it up to date.


Uses for a Microchip:


Microchips are not only a great way to have your pet identified if lost but also a requirement for occasions such as travel and work. For example, a microchip verifies that the correct pet is present when you show an airline representative the veterinary records associated with that microchip number (That is, it’s not just any dog who looks like the breed described on the paperwork).


If you have two (or more) pets that look VERY similar, it can be difficult for others to tell them apart, even though you may be able to easily. So a microchip can be very helpful for veterinary or boarding facility staff if you have dropped your pets off for the day and they each need different care – like if one needs insulin twice a day or if they are due for different vaccines.


Choosing a Microchip:

As stated earlier, MOST microchips can be read by a universal scanner frequency set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).¹ Some of the top distributors of internationally regulated microchips are HomeAgain, ResQ, and 911 Pet Chip.² There are many other microchip organizations that run on different frequencies and are read by scanners specific to those frequencies.


When having a microchip implanted, ask your vet if the chip is ISO compliant. If the chip was inserted prior to adopting your pet, check with your vet to see if their universal ISO scanner can read it. If not, a new chip with the correct frequency can be inserted.


GPS Tracking:


A microchip does not have the ability to track your pet’s location, but there are many great products out there that can be attached to your pet’s collar that do provide GPS tracking. Consumerreports.org rated the Tractive GPS Dog LTE their top choice. You can see their full list of rated products HERE.


Collar and ID Tags:


Though a microchip is the most permanent form of ID and is very important, nothing is better than a collar with proper identification (name and phone number). A microchip requires a special tool to use (scanner) that most people don’t have. Having a number that another person at the park or your neighbor down the street can call when they find your pup is the fastest and easiest way to be reunited.


A collar and tag also signify that a pet has an owner and is lost as opposed to a stray that can be taken in. Many people take in a pet off the streets and care for them for months before realizing they have a microchip and a previous owner (especially cats). ID tags are the most common way for a pet to be reunited with their owner.


Microchips and Ownership:


While we are on the topic of lost pets that are taken into a new home, a microchip is the best way to attempt to reclaim your pet in case of a lawsuit with the new family. Though there are not currently any laws in Washington State claiming that a microchip proves ownership, it can help greatly, along with proof of care such as veterinary records and receipts for pet supplies. Washington State does, however, have a default law stating that one must attempt to find the owner of a lost pet for 30 days before claiming the pet as their own. If a pet is relinquished to a shelter, they must attempt to find an owner for only 72 hours.³ So a microchip is incredibly important if a collar has slipped off.



By: Wendi Black

Edited by: K. Sims



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