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The moment you realize your beloved furry friend is lost is a helpless feeling. You start worrying when you spy that open gate or find that someone forgot to close the front door. And then when you don't hear that familiar jingle of tags when you call his name, the panic sets in.
How Does My Pet Get Microchipped?
Microchipping your pet is one way to increase the odds that you will get your lost dog or cat back. Microchipping pets involves placing a small computer chip about the size of a grain of rice under the skin. It is implanted in a simple procedure by a veterinarian who uses a needle to place the microchip under the loose skin in between the shoulder blades.
The whole procedure takes just a few seconds. While some vets say it causes your pet no more pain or discomfort than receiving a vaccination, other vets prefer to use local anesthesia when inserting the microchip just in case. Talk to your vet about the options. There is little recovery time, if any, for a pet after the microchip is inserted unless anesthesia was used. In that case, your pet might show some side effects or sleepiness until the anesthetic wears off.
The cost of the microchip procedure varies from vet to vet, but it's relatively affordable for most pet parents. According to The Nest, the procedure cost between $25-50. Some microchip companies charge an additional registration fee to store your contact information, as well, so it's best to confirm all costs involved with microchipping your vet or the animal shelter.
Dogs and cats can be microchipped, and the procedure is about the same for both pets. While there is no federal law in the United States about microchipping your pet for identification, many shelters require all adopted animals to have one before leaving the shelter. Microchipping is so helpful that elsewhere in the world it is now law. The United Kingdom, for instance, now requires all dogs older than eight weeks be chipped or the owner could face a fine.
What It Can and Can't Do
A microchip contains a serial number unique to your pet and a phone number that belongs to the registry that owns the chip. A handheld scanner reads the chip and displays the information. From that point, the vet or shelter clinician who found the information can then reach out to the company to retrieve your contact details.
While microchipping pets can help reunite an animal with his family, the technology does have limitations that pet parents should understand. If you move or your phone number changes and you don't notify the microchip company, your pet's microchip will have outdated information. If your pet goes out gallivanting and is found by a vet or clinician, they will have no way of contacting you, so always make sure to keep your contact information up-to-date.
And while microchips are always inserted between the shoulder blades, the chip can sometimes travel to another part of the body, making it difficult for a scanner to find. A good way to check your pet's microchip placement is to ask your vet to scan for the chip at least once a year to make sure it's still where it should be
Because of those limitations, it's important that you don't use microchipping your pet as the only way of identifying your dog and cat. Your pet should always wear a tag with your updated contact information.
Shelters and Microchipping Pets
Many animal shelters require animals to have microchips before moving to their forever home because it can help reunite the pet with his or her family in the event of being lost.
Fifteen percent of cats and dogs go missing every year, according to a 2015 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Animals. Microchipping pets can help bring them home again. If you are planning on adopting a dog or cat from a local shelter be sure to ask them if they microchip their dogs and cats before they adopt them out. Have them run through the details of the program with you and what to do if your new pet does get lost.
The Future of Pet Identification
While microchipping pets is the most common high-tech way of reuniting pets with their family, there are other ways of permanently identifying dogs and cats. New techniques for identifying pets that people are experimenting with include pet facial recognition. There are even apps–PiP and FindingRover are two–that use facial recognition technology and the power of online communities to return lost pets home. This, of course, requires widespread use that a social community is large enough to work together to reunite pets with pet parents.
Another newer option is GPS tracking. A GPS unit installed in a collar is used to track the location of your pet at all times. The information about your pet's whereabouts can be found right on your smartphone. Like the other options, however, it also has drawbacks. Short ranges and short battery life are two, according to Consumer Reports.
A third option is a QR-coded tags or collar that allow anyone with a smartphone to scan and find out not only where your pet belongs, but also alternative contact numbers and information including your dog's name, age, medications, and allergies.
Why a Pet Parent Should Care
While new ways of identifying lost pets could very well end up being mainstream in the future, a microchip is currently the most common way of identifying a cat or dog that is lost and missing his tags. It is a safe procedure, relatively inexpensive, and almost all shelters will scan an animal for a microchip immediately upon his arrival. Your pet is part of your family, but unlike your two-legged relatives, can't tell someone where he lives and that he's lost and scared. A microchip helps your pet communicate that he is loved and is one more tool you can use to make sure that he comes home again.
What to Do if Your Pet Gets Lost
Again, while microchips can help you reunite with your lost friend you should still follow simple steps to increase your odds of finding him or her. Always make sure they are wearing their collar with updated information on their ID tag. Keep updated photos of your pet to show to people in your area if your pet gets loose. Lost Pet signs on telephone poles still work in this digital age.
Also, make sure to call your local vets, shelters, and animal control to let them know you have a lost cat or dog along with their description. This will help improve the chances of your pet being returned to you if lost. Another strong method is to use social media. Putting a picture and a description of your lost pet, along with his or her last known location can help people in your area keep a lookout for your pet and notify you in real-time if they see him or her.
Finally, if you know your pet well and they have certain tendencies like chasing after squirrels, you can drive around the area where they were last spotted looking for areas he might be likely to have run off to. Doing all of these things can drastically improve your chance of reuniting with your loved one.
Kara Murphy is a freelance writer in Erie, Pa. with a goldendoodle named Maddie.