Veterinarians have been recommending microchips for dogs for many years. But what is a microchip implant and should your dog have one?
A microchip implant is a small transponder about the size of a grain of rice. It consists of an electronic microchip, an antenna and a capacitor enclosed in a hermetically sealed glass tube. The electronic microchip is encoded with a unique identification number. This number is registered to the dog and owner by the microchip implant manufacturer.
Microchips for dogs are implanted under the skin, between the shoulder blades, with a syringe. To the dog, the procedure feels similar to a vaccination.
After implantation, the microchip implant’s identification number can be read by a hand-held scanner which emits low frequency radio waves. The tiny antenna picks up the frequency and the number is viewed on the scanner’s display window.
When a lost dog is found and taken to an animal shelter or veterinary office, he is scanned to see if a microchip can be detected. If so, the dog’s identification number can be retrieved, the dog can be identified and his owner can be contacted.
There are several brands of microchips for dogs on the market including HomeAgain and AVID, each with its own scanner. Unfortunately, scanners made by one company usually can not read another company’s microchip, although all scanners are able to detect that a microchip is present. However, there are several universal scanners available that are able to scan and read all brands of microchips for dogs.
Should your dog have a microchip implant? Although they are recommended by veterinarians and animal shelters, microchips for dogs have advantages and drawbacks as well.
The advantages of microchips for dogs are apparent. Since they are designed to last the dog’s entire life and do not need to be recharged in any way, microchips are considered to be a permanent method of identifying lost dogs.
Consider the story of Jake, a seven year old Weimaraner. When Jake was a young puppy in 2003, he received a microchip implant. A few months later, his owner returned to his Michigan home one day to find Jake gone. Seven years later, Jake was found in Kentucky. After his microchip was scanned and his identification number retrieved, Jake’s owner in Michigan was notified. This, of course, is an extreme example. Most lost dogs who have a microchip implant are returned home much sooner.
Although the majority of dogs that have a microchip implant have no problems, there are risks involved. It has been reported that in 2009, after receiving a microchip implant, a Chihuahua living in California developed a hemorrhage and passed away. There have also been accounts of microchips migrating throughout the body of the dog. In addition, microchips have been known to occasionally cause infections, abscesses and tumors in some dogs.
Dog owners should discuss the pros and cons of microchips for dogs with their veterinarian before they decide if a microchip implant is suitable for their dog.