The value of microchipping

2007-07-01

Quick identification of a "stray" can lead to a happy reunion when pets go missing. The other possible outcomes are not quite so cheerful.

It seems almost sci-fi: implanting a computer chip in living tissue and coding that chip to a central database. Many of your clients may be squeamish, even a little suspicious, about the concept. What is this—1984? Yet as more and more pets are "chipped," more and more stories with happy endings are cropping up when animals and owners are reunited.

See the Related Links below to download these answers to frequently asked questions about microchipping.

Dr. Kevin Concannon, DACVA, co-founder of Veterinary Specialty Hospital of the Carolinas (VSH) in Cary, N.C., says his emergency hospital sees quite a few pets brought in as "strays," either healthy or injured. The presence of a microchip can mean the owner is at the hospital minutes later to pick up the pet, or is able to give the go-ahead for a life-saving surgery or blood transfusion. "In the type of work that we do," Dr. Concannon says, "microchipping definitely helps us a lot."

Benefits of the chip

Any unidentified animal brought in to VSH is routinely scanned for a microchip, Dr. Concannon says. In one case, a whippet spooked by a thunderstorm found its way into a random neighborhood garage. The homeowner brought the dog to VSH, "we scanned it, and the owner came in 15 minutes later to pick up the pet," Dr. Concannon says. Here are some other advantages he sees to microchipping:

  • Approval to treat. When an unidentified injured animal is brought to VSH, the healthcare team routinely stabilizes the patient, provides appropriate pain relief, and bandages any wounds. Beyond that, they need owner input. "If an animal deteriorates and there's no one to take responsibility, it might have to be euthanized," Dr. Concannon says. "If we can contact the owner quickly, that's important to the pet's care."

  • Permanence. Collars and tags can be easily removed, Dr. Concannon says. Obviously a Good Samaritan won't do this, but someone less scrupulous might. Plus, many cats don't like collars or their owners worry about a collar getting caught and causing injury—microchipping is great in these cases. "My own cats are microchipped even though they're strictly indoor—just in case they ever get out," Dr. Concannon says.

  • Easy updating. With a traditional collar and tag, owners who move must order new tags and often wait for them to be inscribed. Most microchip companies, on the other hand, offer updates with one phone call or online visit. That said, clients do need to be reminded to keep their contact information current. VSH has run into problems with out-of-date information, Dr. Concannon says, though it's still helpful to have the pet owner's name.

Educating pet owners

If you've explained the benefits and your clients still aren't sure about microchipping, they might have some misconceptions about how the chip works or whether it's safe. Use a frequently asked questions handout (see above) to make sure these clients are informed—and have the best chance of keeping their pets for a lifetime.