Doggy Lost… and Found Again

Microchips Provide Peace of Mind



It’s easy for a dog or cat to slip out an unlatched door, open gate or even a window. Three million lost pets are picked up by animal control agencies each year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The National Council on Pet Population Study & Policy estimates fewer than 2 percent of wayward cats and only 15 to 20 percent of wandering dogs find their way home again. Most of those that make it back have been identified and reunited through tags, tattoos or microchips.

About the size of a grain of rice (12 millimeters), a microchip is injected under the skin into the shoulder area of a dog or cat as a form of permanent identification. The chip itself has no internal energy source, so it will never wear out or run down.

Microchips work on a radio frequency identification system (RFIS) that operates on two main frequencies—125 kilohertz (in this country) or 134.2 kilohertz (internationally). A handheld scanner powers a low radio frequency readout of the chip’s unique identification number and transmits it to the scanner’s display window, much like a retail bar code.

Shelters, veterinarians and animal control staff routinely use scanners to check for identification chips in unclaimed pets. If detected, the displayed code can then be traced to the pet’s family.

Microchip Myth Busters

False: Microchipping is common.
True: The Humane Society of America estimates that fewer than 5 percent of pets have a microchip.

False: The chip will move after it’s been injected.
True: Technology has improved. For example, one microchip manufacturer has developed a patented anti-migration feature that ensures their microchips stay put.

Every two seconds, a pet is lost somewhere in the United States. Shelters report the biggest barrier to a pet and family reunion is a lack of current information. Identification can help bring him home again. Use both a tag and microchip. Keep contact information up to date. When traveling, program a GPS tag with a cell phone number—it’s faster than calling home for messages.


“The chip very rarely migrates under the skin,” says Dr. Amber Andersen, a Los Angeles veterinarian. “Every pet should have a microchip.”

False: Microchips pose a health risk.
True: “There have been no reported cases of tumors at injection sites.”

There’s no reaction at all in the tissue around the chip,” reports Dr. Jeff Bryan, a veterinary oncologist at the University of Missouri’s Medical Veterinary Teaching Hospital, in Columbia.

False: The shelter won’t have a scanner.
True: More than 50,000 veterinarians and shelters use scanners. Microchip providers also frequently donate scanners to shelters and rescue groups.

False: Implanting a microchip is painful.
True: Pets do not have to be sedated to be chipped. Although a larger needle is used than for shots, it won’t be any more painful for the pet than a vaccination.

False: It’s expensive.
True: Veterinarians set their own prices, usually between $25 and $40. Local shelters and humane societies often sponsor chip-a-thons, where microchips are provided at an even lower cost. Call local shelters, humane societies or rescue groups for details about their next microchipping event.

False: Microchipping really isn’t necessary.
True: Identification is key in returning a lost pet. The ASPCA strongly recommends the use of a collar tag in combination with a microchip. Collars can break—a microchip assures backup identification that can’t be removed or altered.

GPS Tracking

For a dog that likes to jump fences or take himself out on walkabouts, consider using a GPS collar. Tagg’s battery-powered GPS system allows the owner to track a pet from the Internet or a mobile phone app. Simply set up a perimeter of allowed space between 75 and 1,000 yards, and if the tagged pet leaves that area, notification arrives by text and email. The customized GPS function traces the pet’s location on a digital map or via text updates.


Avery Mack regularly contributes to Natural Awakenings magazines. Connect at AveryMack@mindspring.com.

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