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How do microchips work?

A microchip is a small electric chip encased in a pill-shaped piece of glass that’s about the size of a grain of rice. Contrary to popular belief and what it sounds like, a microchip is not a GPS device that allows pet owners to pull up their dog’s location like Apple’s Find My iPhone. Instead, it’s an under-the-skin barcode that contains your dog’s unique identification number.

Benefits of microchipping your dog

Microchipping your dog is a super-affordable preventative measure — an extra level of protection in case they lose their collar and tags. When lost dogs are found by a shelter or animal hospital, the staff use a special scanner to read the unique identification number, which gives them contact information for the dog’s owner. The scanner works similar to contactless credit cards, so it doesn’t even have to touch the dog’s skin.

Summary: Microchipping your dog is a no-brainer 🧠

How are microchips implanted?

The microchip is implanted in the same way that they receive vaccinations: A needle pushes the microchip underneath their skin (called subcutaneous implantation). Most of the time, vets place it underneath the skin on a dog’s back, right between their shoulder blades. If your dog is small and has shorter hair, you might even be able to feel the chip as you rub your hand across it.

Over time, your pet’s microchip can move — and that’s totally safe and OK. Most of the time, they’ll migrate down your dog’s shoulder or leg, but on rare occasions, they’ll land underneath your dog’s chest.

Where can I get my dog microchipped?

The vet’s office is the best place to get a microchip implanted, though some shelters offer the service as well. 

If you have a brand-new puppy, your vet will probably recommend microchipping them at the time of their spay or neuter since they’ll already be unconscious. The microchipping needle is a bit larger than a standard needle used for vaccines, but it’s perfectly normal for puppies to be microchipped while awake. A few tasty treats or peanut butter usually keeps them distracted — or helps them quickly forget what happened, at least.

What to do after microchipping your dog

After the procedure, go to the microchip manufacturer’s website to register the equipment and your contact information. This is crucial — otherwise, no one will be able to contact you if your dog is found. And remember: If you move or change your phone number, you need to change that information on the microchip registry as well.

What if I know my dog’s microchip ID number, but not the manufacturer?

The American Animal Hospital Association built a Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool that can tell you which manufacturer built a microchip-based on its unique identification number.

Note: Even though there are multiple manufacturers of microchips, most veterinary clinics and animal shelters have a universal microchip scanner that can read and recognize any microchip that is implanted in your dog.

Microchips are cheaper than you'd think

If you go to a low-cost clinic, it might only cost $10. If you adopted your dog from an animal shelter, it’s likely that the dog was already microchipped, and you need to register your information on the manufacturer’s website. (Ask the staff for help.) If you go to your regular, full-service veterinary clinic, it may cost anywhere between $30-45. Either way, it’s pretty affordable.

The microchip brands used by our vets

Unless you order your own microchip online, you will most likely be limited by the brand that the clinic or animal shelter keeps in stock. That being said, here are the microchip brands that our team of vets use:

AKC Reunite

What to know if you buy a microchip online

It’s important to note that even if you are able to order your own microchip online, it is supposed to be implanted by a veterinarian or a member of their staff. Oftentimes, this will even be mentioned on the website you purchase it from. Additionally, when you have the microchip implanted at a veterinary clinic, you usually do not have to pay additional registration fees when registering your information and your dog’s microchip number on the company’s website. Registration fees usually range from $15-25 and are good for life.

Once you register your dog’s microchip number and your information on the microchip company’s website, it is good for life, and you don’t have to pay additional fees each year. If you see that a company is requesting an annual fee from you, it’s probably for some additional benefit or perks, such as 24/7 access to online veterinarians, helping pay for transportation costs to reunite with your dog if they get lost, etc. You don’t have to subscribe to these services to maintain your dog’s microchip number in the registry.