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What Is a Pet Microchip, and Why Is It Important?

When you take your new kitten or puppy in for their first checkup, you know to get the first round of shots: distemper, rabies, heartworm, kennel cough, etc. Your vet probably asked you about getting a microchip as well. But why does it matter?

If you’re not sure how a microchip works (or how the process of getting one works), or you’re just not convinced it’s that big of a deal, you’re not alone! Many pet owners don’t understand the importance of getting their new family members microchipped. Read on to find out all the ways it matters for the safety of your furry friend!

What Is a Pet Microchip?

If you are a new pet owner or haven’t had a pet in years (and look forward to bringing one home soon), you may not have heard of a microchip. Approximately the size of a grain of rice, the tool is used as electronic identification, like an ID card your pet never leaves home without. The information stored on the chip is saved on a database. With the swipe of a scanner, any veterinarian’s office or animal shelter can retrieve your pet’s information straight from the microchip.

Microchips aren’t only for dogs and cats! They can also be used for ferrets, horses, and other small mammals that become part of human families.

Note: The information stored on a microchip can only be accessed if the animal is brought to a shelter or vet and scanned. They don’t act as GPS trackers.

Why Would You Want Your Pet to Have a Microchip?

There is a big, glaring reason to microchip pets: To recover those that get lost. Shelters take in about eight million animals each year. Many of them are lost pets, and few owners ever find them. About 15% to 20% of dogs are picked up by their owners from shelters, and only 2% of cats return home.

Fortunately, most animal shelters and veterinarians have the scanners needed to read microchips’ information. When a shelter worker or vet tech passes the scanner over the microchip, they retrieve whatever information is on it. Usually, it contains the pet owner’s contact information, including:

  • Name
  • Pet’s name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Sometimes email

Some microchips also include the veterinarian’s contact info as an extra precaution if the owner’s information is not kept up-to-date.

If your pet gets lost, you don’t have to wait around for a vet or shelter to call you! Notify the manufacturer of your pet’s microchip. Some manufacturers have a system in place to contact all shelters, rescues, and vets to notify them of your missing animal. Check out this post for even more tips for finding your lost pet.

Need a bonus reason to have your pet microchipped? A microchip can’t get lost.

Collars can fall off or be ripped off. Cats are notorious for getting rid of them. But a microchip can’t be tossed!

Of course, that doesn’t mean your pet shouldn’t wear a collar. If a good Samaritan finds your lost dog or cat without one, they could believe he’s a stray and not approach him. A collar with ID tags is noticeable to passerby.

microchip pets

How Do You Get a Microchip? 2 Simple Steps

Step 1: Go to the vet.

Microchipping a pet is very similar to giving them any shot or vaccination. Using a hypodermic needle, the microchip is implanted, usually between the shoulder blades. If you are getting your pet spayed or neutered soon, that appointment is a great time to schedule microchip implantation. Under anesthesia, your furry friend won’t feel a thing.

Step 2: Do your part.

There are steps you need to take after your pet is microchipped. In most cases, you will have to send a packet of information to the manufacturer of the microchip. This is extremely important. If you forget to complete this paperwork, the manufacturer may not have the information needed to contact you if your cat or dog gets lost and then found.

Don’t forget: This is also the case if you move. Review and update your information regularly to ensure your pet can return home.

If your pet doesn’t have a microchip, make an appointment with your vet to get one! Ask which microchips are commonly used in your area. Most shelters and vets use a universal scanner, which can detect any type of microchip, but some use only specific scanners, meaning your pet’s microchip could go undetected. You may also want to call the shelters in your area to determine if they’re using universal scanners. (If they aren’t, request that they get one!)

Losing a furry family member can truly bring heartbreak to the family. You can take preventative measures by keeping an eye on your animals, not letting them outside alone, and microchipping your pets. All these things can help them stay where they belong, but if they do get loose, don’t give up hope! Some dogs and cats are found days, months, or years after they disappear. One family was reunited after a whopping ten years all thanks to a microchip!

If your pet isn’t yet microchipped, we suggest you make an appointment as soon as possible. If your pet gets out, it’s important they can get back home. Give us a call at 281-693-7387 to learn more about keeping your pet safe today.

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The Team @ Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital

Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital serves Katy, TX and the surrounding areas with a dedication and passion for our animal friends that is unmatched. Our veterinarians are highly trained, experienced, and compassionate when it comes to giving your pet the care they deserve. If your companion is in need of emergency care, a dental cleaning, grooming, or just a check-up, we would love to see them! Call 281-693-7387 to make an appointment quickly and easily.

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