Hopefully you haven’t lived through the angst of losing a dog. Even if you think your dog would NEVER run away, a sudden bolt of lightning or the rumble of thunder could cause him/her to panic. Or even worse, he could be stolen!
According to the ASPCA, more than 7.6 million dogs are lost each year — approximately one every 2 seconds. As dog owners, it is our responsibility to make sure our dog has proper identification in case he is lost or stolen. Although many dog owners realize the importance, the Pharr Road Animal Hospital sadly reports that less than 33% of dog owners report tagging their dogs.
There are numerous options available, but I hold to the belief that it is better to be safe than sorry. All of my dogs have been microchipped in addition to wearing a tag on their collar which states their name, my name, and my telephone number.
To Microchip or Not
A microchip is an electronic device that is very small (about the size of a grain of rice) and is injected beneath a dog’s skin using a hypodermic needle. The microchip itself does not have a battery—it is activated by a scanner that is passed over the area, and the radio waves put out by the scanner activate the chip. In dogs and cats, the microchip is usually placed at the back of the neck or in between the shoulder blades. As the procedure is pretty painless, dogs generally do not have to be anesthetized. Veterinarians report that the pain level is similar to a dog getting a vaccination.
Understand that a microchip does not use GPS technology – it can’t track or locate your dog. Instead, if someone finds your dog, they can take it to a vet to be scanned.
Microchips usually contain the following information:
- Name of the dog
- Description of the dog (breed)
- Owner contact info
- Veterinarian and/or shelter contact information responsible for implanting the chip
It is important that this information be kept up-to-date!
Some countries such as Northern Ireland, Australia and New South Wales have made it mandatory to microchip all dogs. Why? Many dogs are simply abandoned and their owners take them somewhere and leave them. Owners might think twice about deserting a dog if they knew it could be traced back to them! Secondly, some dog owners raise their dogs for the abhorrent practice of dog fighting. Imagine if these owners were caught and faced a fine or jail time? Although microchipping dogs won’t necessarily solve the number of strays, it can make a difference.
Each of the options has some benefits and downsides.
Disadvantages of Traditional Pet ID Tags
- They get old and the information can wear off – microchips last a lifetime.
- A thief could remove the tag.
- The tag may fall off the dog’s collar.
Disadvantages of a Microchip
- You must rely on whoever finds your dog to take him to a veterinarian for the chip to be scanned.
- A microchip can get dislodged in your dog’s body, making it unreadable.
- There is no such thing as a universal microchip so you are dependent on the vet having the right equipment for your brand.
- In rare cases, a microchip can be rejected by your dog’s body (it is a foreign substance). Some vets believe there is the danger of infection or even cancerous growths.
Although microchipping is still somewhat controversial, remember that thousands of pets have been happily reunited with their dogs thanks to a microchip! Your dog should also have a rabies tag so that people can quickly see that your pet has been vaccinated against this deadly disease. Know that no system is fail proof which is why it’s always great to have two forms of identification on your senior dog – a tag and a microchip.