Microchipping a pet is a common topic for pet owners—but how do microchips actually work? How can something as small as a rice grain make the difference between a sweet reunion with your missing pet and never seeing your pet again? Palmer Veterinary Clinic wants to educate you on the ins and outs of the tiny-but-huge world of pet microchips.  

So tiny? Understanding how your pet’s microchip works

A microchip is a tiny, implantable device with a capacitor, antenna, and connective wiring inside a bio-safe glass or polymer covering. The embedded microchip transmits one unique multi-digit identification number when activated by the low-power radio frequency of a handheld microchip scanner. The number can be checked against the microchip database, and the registered owner can be contacted about their pet’s location and status. 

Understanding that the microchip itself does not locate your pet by transmitting a trackable signal is important, as this presumption can provide a false sense of security. The chip is simply storage for your pet’s unique identification number. Your lost pet must still be found and taken to a shelter or veterinary office for the microchip to serve its purpose.

Will it hurt? Your pet will feel only slight discomfort

Many owners worry unnecessarily about the pain of implantation, but pets are commonly microchipped during routine visits while completely awake, and experience only momentary discomfort—a small price to pay for lifelong peace of mind. Rest assured that Palmer Veterinary Clinic takes every precaution to minimize your pet’s discomfort by following these steps:

  • We will use a hypodermic needle to embed the microchip in the subcutaneous tissue below the skin.
  • Microchips are implanted between the shoulder blades, where the loose skin has less sensitivity.
  • We will try to distract your pet with yummy, time-consuming treats like peanut butter, cheese spread, or canned food, to take their mind off the process.
  • We may use desensitization techniques, such as lightly pinching the skin while rewarding with food, before thE actual implantation, so your pet is not startled. 
  • The entire process takes only slightly longer than a vaccination.
  • Your pet may experience local sensitivity at the injection site that should fade in one to three days. In time, the body will form a fibrous capsule around the microchip, which is actually desirable, because that holds the chip in place.

We strongly recommend that a veterinary professional implant your pet’s microchip. With poor technique, a microchip may back out of the skin and become caught in the hair, or be incorrectly placed, and harder to detect when scanned.

Finish what you started: Register your pet’s microchip

After your pet is microchipped, registering your pet’s chip is an absolutely critical but commonly overlooked step. By registering the chip, you are assigning your contact information to the chip identification number. Without it, your pet’s microchip can be a dead end.

While some microchips may be traceable to the hospital or shelter where the chip was implanted, that is not always the case. Registering your pet’s microchip increases the likelihood and speed at which your pet will be returned to you. 

  • Check the scan — If you’re unsure if your pet’s microchip is registered, bring in your pet for a quick chip scan. Based on the number, we can provide you with the manufacturer’s name and online registry address. 
  • Update the information — Update your pet’s microchip information each time you relocate or change phone numbers. 
  • Extra information 1 — Some registries will allow you to list health conditions, medications, and allergies on your pet’s profile, which can alert the hospital or shelter to your pet’s veterinary needs.
  • Extra information 2 — A secondary contact person is a great safety measure, in case you are unreachable when your pet is found.

ABC: Always Be Checking your pet’s microchip

When your pet is at Palmer Veterinary Clinic for their annual examination, we will scan your pet’s microchip. Scanning takes mere moments, confirms proper functioning, and allows us to note its location. Although uncommon, microchips may migrate out of position to body areas along the chest that are not commonly scanned. We may advise implanting a second chip in this circumstance.

Double up: Don’t ditch the collar and tags

While your pet’s microchip is the best form of permanent identification available, a collar and tags are still important for keeping your pet safe for these reasons: 

  • Be physical — Physical identification is still the fastest way someone can reach you about your lost pet, while a microchip requires a trip to the vet or shelter.
  • What’s a microchip? — The finder of your lost pet may be unaware of microchips, and not attempt to have the pet checked for one.
  • The pet is not a stray — A collar sends a visual signal that a pet is owned. A dog or cat running at a distance is recognizable as “missing,” rather than a stray, and more effort may be taken to catch them.

If the jingle of pet tags has you tempted to unbuckle their collar and rely only on their microchip, purchase your pet a monogrammed collar instead. 

Microchipping makes an enormous impact on the odds of you and your missing pet being reunited. Collars can break, and tags can wear and fade, but a microchip lasts for the life of the pet, and helps ensure their life is spent with you. Call Palmer Veterinary Clinic to schedule your pet’s microchip appointment, or to find out how to register your pet’s microchip.