Pet microchip implants can be a valuable tool to help to ensure a happy reunion with your pet if it is lost. However, there are pros and cons to this identification technology, so do your homework before having a microchip implanted in your pet.



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How Pet Microchips Work:

A pet microchip is an identification device that uses the same radio frequency identification technology utilized in many retail stores and warehouses to track merchandise. It is passive, and does not emit information. Instead, a pet microchip stores unique identification information, which can be read by a scanner.

How Pet Microchips Are Implanted:

A pet microchip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, can be implanted by a veterinarian in all kinds of pets, including reptiles and birds. The process uses a needle, is easy and relatively painless, about like your pet getting a vaccination.

Once implanted, the microchip is painless and it never needs to be replaced. Pet microchips are not toxic, and they shouldn't cause allergic reactions in pets. Having a microchip implanted in your pet is generally not very expensive, perhaps running from $25 to $65.

How a Pet Microchip Can Help You Find a Lost Pet:

Once a pet microchip is implanted, it needs to be registered with an agency that keeps databases of information on pets with microchips. You will provide the microchip database agency with the microchip's unique identification number and your contact information or your veterinarian's contact information. If the contact information changes, for example, because you move or change veterinarians, you will need to notify the agency.

There are several microchip database agencies, including the American Kennel Club Companion Animal Recovery Group (AKCCAR). Which agency you register with will depend on the manufacturer of your pet's microchip.

Problems with Microchip Identification:

If your pet is lost and taken to an animal rescue or shelter, it can be scanned for a microchip implant, the identification information can be read and you can be notified through the database agency.

While the locating the owner of a pet with a microchip implant sounds easy enough, in fact, there are some significant problems with the system.

First, since there are multiple databases of pet microchip implant information, animal shelter employees won't automatically know which one to contact with an animal's identification number to find its owner. There are efforts being made to create a structure to coordinate all database information, but, in the meantime, locating the right pet microchip implant database can be time-consuming.

Second, not all pet microchip implants use the same radio frequency, so they can't all be read with the same scanner. While a universal scanner has been developed that, in theory, reads all pet microchips, not all animal shelter have this device. Further, some pet microchip manufacturers encrypt the frequency at which their microchips can be read to ensure that they only can be read by the scanners that they make and sell. The result of these incompatibilities is that it may, at times, be difficult for a shelter to read the information on your pet's microchip implant or, in the worst case, even to determine that it has a microchip.

Finally, there is some controversy as to whether microchips may increase the incidence of cancer in pets. While studies have shown evidence that microchips can cause cancer in mice and rats, the risk to pets such as dogs is less clear. Nevertheless, if you are considering a pet microchip implant, you might want to investigate this topic further.