August 15, 2016 is National Check the Chip Day! 

006c0704pmEstablished by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), National Check the Chip Day was created as an awareness vehicle to remind pet owners to check and update the contact information on their microchipped pets.  Not just for dogs or cats—ferrets, birds and other companion pets can be microchipped too.

According to the AVMA, a study of more than 7,700 stray animals at animal shelters showed that dogs without microchips were returned to their owners 21.9 percent of the time, whereas microchipped dogs were returned to their owners 52.2 percent of the time.  Cats without microchips were reunited with their owners only 1.8 percent of the time, whereas microchipped cats went back home 38.5 percent of the time.

What is a microchip?

A microchip is a permanent, electronic, tamper-proof form of identification for pets.  The size of a grain of rice, the “chip” is enclosed in a glass cylinder and implanted painlessly into the animal (typically between the shoulders and below the skull) by being injected under the skin using a hypodermic needle.  No surgery or anesthesia is required.

How does the “chip” help reunite a lost pet with its owner?

If a pet is separated from its owner and the pet’s tag is missing, the microchip is a permanent form of identification.  Most animal control, local shelters and veterinarians know to “check the chip” when unidentified pets are brought to them.

How does the microchip work?

Activated by a scanner that is passed over the area of insertion, the chip transmits the animal’s unique identification number to the scanner via radio waves, which displays the number on the screen.  The chip does not require a battery.

What information does the microchip contain?

Microchips currently used in pets only contain identification numbers.  They are not GPS tracking devices.  When a pet owner “chips” and registers their pet, an identification number is assigned and is then stored in the manufacturer’s database.  The medical history of the pet is not stored, only the contact information of the owner.

To support the notion of microchipping pets, the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) sites the following facts:

  • More than one million pets are lost or stolen each year.
  • One in three pets will get lost during their lifetime.
  • Without pet identification, 90 percent will not get home.
  • Overcrowded animal shelters often are forced to destroy lost pets unless they can be returned to their owners in a short time.
  • “Dog nappers” may eventually release the animals they have stolen, but they may end up miles from home.

When it comes to easily identifying a found pet and reuniting them with their owner, nothing replaces a secure collar tag with current information.  However, collar tags are not fool-proof as they can become unreadable, lost or removed, which is why the CVMA acknowledges the limitations of each type of pet identification and recommends both collar tags and microchips for pets.

For more information on microchipping pets, visit the California Veterinary Medical Association website at www.cvma.net.  You may also contact the Veterinary Medical Board via email with additional questions at vmb@dca.ca.gov.

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