Is microchipping really worth it?
Microchipping is invaluable for pets – for a range of reasons. It is, of course, a legal requirement that dogs carry a microchip, but as we’re going to explain in this blog, it’s equally important that your cat is chipped too.
What is a microchip?
A “microchip” or “identichip” is a radio frequency transceiver encased in biocompatible glass. It’s about the size of a grain of rice, and contains no batteries or power supply.
Without a battery, how does it transmit the pet’s location?
It doesn’t! The chip is encoded with a unique number, which can be matched to your details on a central database. This number can be retrieved when the chip is “read” using a scanner. These scanners are held by every veterinary practice as well as a range of other charitable and local government bodies, for the identification of lost pets.
Then how does it work?
The scanner contains a radio transmitter. The radio waves emitted are much weaker than a mobile phone, for instance, and have an effective range of less than 50cm. When the radio waves interact with the transceiver in the microchip, the chip absorbs and re-emits them. However, the reflected waves are modulated, or altered, so that they encode the unique number.
That number can then be fed into an online database and the animal’s and owner’s details retrieved.
What’s the database?
When your pet is chipped, you will be asked to fill out some paperwork detailing your pet’s details, your name, your address, and contact phone numbers. This information is entered into the database, and is then available to any authorised person who has found your pet and needs to know who they belong to.
How and where is the chip implanted?
We use a hypodermic needle, just like your pet’s annual booster injections. The only difference is that the needle is big enough for the microchip. This is usually placed under the skin between the shoulder blades.
Is it harmful?
The chip itself is absolutely harmless. It is encased in ultra-tough biocompatible glass that is virtually indestructible and doesn’t trigger a tissue response or release any chemicals into the pet’s body.
However, there are a few possible complications. The most common is it’s uncomfortable having the injection – perhaps one pet in four goes “ouch”. The next is that the chip may move under the skin; this almost never causes any harm to the pet, but it can be annoying when you can’t find it immediately! Other complications are very, very rare, and we virtually never see them.
The radio energy used by the scanners is so low-powered that there is no evidence of any harm whatsoever.
Overall, then, microchipping is exceptionally safe, and we have no hesitation in recommending it to all our clients.
So why is it so important?
Because, sadly, pets don’t always stay where we put them! Whether it’s because they’ve been scared and run, got curious and wandered, been in an accident, or even (very rarely) been deliberately stolen, pets go missing all the time. Most turn up within a few hours, but occasionally a dog or a cat can end up miles away from where we’re looking for them. Now, if they’re picked up by a well-meaning member of the public, typically, they’ll call us (or their own vet if it’s a long way away), or a charity. We’ll scan the pet, and we can then identify them, contact you, and reunite the two of you!
If you want to get your pet microchipped, contact us right away for an appointment. If you’re concerned about possible risks, ring us and talk to one of our vets for advice.