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Vet microchipping a beagle

The essentials

  • Microchipping is affordable — It typically costs between $25 and $80 and can be done in one quick visit.
  • Microchips are generally required for international travel — A microchip is required for many countries when traveling outside the U.S.
  • Microchips permanently identify your dog — Unlike collars and dog tags, microchips permanently identify your dog with a unique identification number.

Microchips are absolutely worth it. The unique identification number associated with your pet’s microchip significantly increases the chances of your pet being returned to you in case they go missing.

Taking this proactive step is an easy and affordable way to permanently identify your pet, providing peace of mind for pet owners. This small investment can make a difference in ensuring you and your pet are reunited if the unexpected happens.

What is a dog microchip?

A microchip is a small glass or plastic biologically compatible electronic chip inserted underneath the dog’s skin, much like a vaccine. The microchip contains your personal information so, if/when the microchip is passed over with a scanner, the user will be able to find you and reunite you with your dog.

Microchips last for 25 years, and maintaining their effectiveness is as simple as updating your information. This can usually be done online on the company’s website. Microchipping your pet is a reliable and long-lasting means of identification.

What information is stored in a dog microchip?

Microchips store a pre-programmed unique identification number of 9 to 15 digits. This ID number does not contain any medical information, and it does not function as a GPS tracker. Instead, this specialized ID number is used in a microchip registry lookup database —being able to identify the microchip’s ID number is crucial for connecting you to your pet.

How are dog microchips implanted?

Microchips are implanted with a large-bore needle slightly larger than regular injections and feel similar. They are the size of a grain of rice and are inserted beneath the skin , typically between the shoulder blades. They take less than a minute to administer, reducing any discomfort that your pet might feel.

This location is chosen because it’s easy to access, doesn’t cause discomfort, and has minimal interference with the pet’s movement. This location avoids areas prone to excessive movement and prevents your dog from feeling it, ensuring the longevity and effectiveness of the microchip.

The great thing about microchips is there is no surgery or anesthesia involved. Microchipping can be done during a regular vet visit or at the same time as other procedures. This makes the procedure less invasive and more convenient for the pet and the owner and helps minimize potential stress.

The cost of a dog microchip

Microchip costs can vary, but it’s typically pretty inexpensive. The cost depends on your veterinarian, location, and microchip type.

👉 If adopting, check with your organization to see if it’s included in the adoption fee. 

Here are some approximate commonly seen costs for micro-chipping:

Brand Low-cost clinic Cost of chip/registration Vet office Renewal fees/Additional costs
AKC Reunite $15+ $20 $25-$80 No
HomeAgain $15+ $20 $25-$80 No
PetLink $15+ $25 $25-$80 No
24PetWatch $15+ $20 $25-$80 No

*Note: The higher-end cost may include veterinary fees or the vet registering your microchip for you.

While you can buy your own microchip online, it’s important to note that it’s supposed to be implanted by a veterinarian or a member of their staff. This will often be mentioned on the website you purchase it from.

Veterinary clinics have the expertise and precision needed to implant the microchip safely, ensuring a sterile procedure and minimizing discomfort for your dog. Relying on a vet ensures the microchip is correctly placed and prioritizes the animal’s well-being.

Additionally, when you have the microchip implanted at a veterinary clinic, typically, the only cost will be for implantation. Owners are generally responsible for registering their microchips and information on the company’s website. Some companies have a free option, and others have a membership where you can pay for more in-depth services.

Benefits of getting a dog microchip

Micro-chipping is an affordable preventative measure and an extra layer of protection for your dog. If a dog is found or brought to an animal shelter or hospital, they’ll use a scanner to read the ID number of the microchip. They can search for the ID number on a registry lookup website or contact the microchip company.

  • Permanent identification. Microchipping is a means of permanently identifying your pet. Unlike collars and tags that can be removed, these are done similarly to a vaccine, making it less likely for someone to claim your dog as their own.
  • Backup identification during natural disasters. During natural disasters or emergencies, pets may become separated from their owners. This serves as a backup identification for reconnection, even during challenging times.
  • Higher return-to-owner rates. Microchipping significantly boosts return-to-owner rates for lost pets. A study done by the American Veterinary Medical Association indicated that microchipped dogs were returned home 52.2% of the time. Those without microchips were returned home only 21.9% of the time.
  • Global mobility for pets. The ISO standard for microchip frequency allows dogs to be identified and returned regardless of location. This is particularly beneficial for pet owners who travel internationally or frequently relocate.

How microchips work when you lose your pet

Losing your pet is distressing and exhausting — but microchips can help bring them home safely. Knowing and understanding how pet microchips work to reunite you with your best friend can alleviate some of the stress during this time. Here’s a step-by-step of how microchips work.

1. A veterinarian or shelter scans your dog for a chip

When your lost dog is brought to an animal hospital or shelter, one of the first things they’ll do is scan for a microchip. The handheld scanner is passed over the area between the shoulder blades where a microchip is usually implanted. If one is present, the identification number appears on the scanner’s screen. If no number appears, they will scan other areas where the chip may have migrated to.

2. The number is entered into registries

When the identification number from the scanner is entered into a registry search system , it returns a list of companies the chip is registered with. This is crucial in reuniting you and your pet and establishing contact between the veterinarian or organization and the correct registry.

3. Registry search results are used to obtain owner information

From there, the vet or staff can contact the registry for the pet owner’s information. In certain cases, microchips are implanted but not registered. In this case, the lookup tool will return a list of companies that could have sold the microchip. This is known as the trackback process.

The trackback process finds information from possible companies to find the microchip’s origins. This involves getting details about the original purchase by contacting the companies linked to the microchip sale.

By requesting trackback information from these companies, it’s possible to find the original purchaser of the microchip. This may lead to the pet owner’s contact information and, hopefully, a successful reunification of the owner with their pet.

👉 Only authorized animal professionals such as veterinarians, veterinary technicians, local authorities, police, animal welfare, shelter, and rescue organizations can obtain contact information for pet owners. This safeguard prevents just anyone from casually accessing an owner’s identification through the lookup process.

4. Keep your information up-to-date

If you lose your dog, someone will reach out to you, whether it’s someone from the organization or the microchip company. One of the most common reasons for microchipped animals not being reunited with their owners is inaccurate information in the microchip database.

Tips for bringing your missing dog home safely

If your dog ever goes missing, don’t lose hope. Many dogs find their way home even in unfamiliar territory and from hundreds of miles away. A well-thought-out plan can help keep you calm and level-headed in an emergency. Here are some tips for bringing your missing dog home safely:

Register your pet on FidoAlert — Using FidoAlert sends a text alert to everyone who signed up to the app within a 5-mile radius. This Amber Alert app is free and nationwide to help you bring your pet home safely.

Take action — Time is of the essence when you lose your dog. You’ll want to make sure you take immediate action. The first 12 hours are the most important. Check to see if they’re nearby or somewhere in the surrounding neighborhood.

Contact shelters and animal clinics — Reach out to local authorities, nearby shelters, rescues, or animal hospitals. Provide them with a detailed description and your contact information. If anyone brings in a dog with injuries or one fitting the description, they can contact you immediately.

Use social media — Join local groups on social media. In the event your dog goes missing, post a photo, your dog’s description, and how to get in touch. This increases your reach and helps broaden the square footage of your search.

Make flyers — Design clear and concise flyers with a picture of your dog, a description and other essential details, and your contact information. Go into local shops and let people know by word-of-mouth that your dog is missing. This can only help expand your search and make more people aware.

👉 Even if it’s been a while, try to keep a positive mindset and remain persistent in your search. Dogs have been known to use scent cues to find their way home, even after being missing for long periods.

With higher return-to-owner rates, microchipping helps minimize incorrect ownership claims, offering peace of mind to pet owners. Even in cases with unregistered microchips, national registries, and trackback processes can still potentially reconnect pets with their owners. Microchipping is a great way to permanently identify your pet, even across geographic boundaries.

Frequently asked questions

Can I track my dog with a microchip?

Although your pet’s microchip has a unique identification number for identifying your dog, they can’t be used to track your dog like a GPS.

What does a microchip do to a dog?

A microchip gives your dog their own personal identification code, giving them the best chance to be returned to you. As pet parents, it’s one of the most responsible things you can do to ensure the safety of your pet.

How much does it cost to get a microchip for a dog?

The cost to microchip your dog varies but typically costs between $25-$80.

Can I scan my dog’s microchip with my phone?

No, you can’t scan a dog microchip with your phone. You have to use a specialized scanner designed to read microchips.

How do I find out who owns a microchipped dog?

The microchip’s unique identification number will not show or give you contact info for the person who owns a microchipped dog. You can contact the microchip company or a local shelter or rescue, and they will contact the owner.