This tiny little implant that goes under the skin in a pet at the base of the neck, or the left side of the neck in a horse, is called a microchip. This technology has been around for a while, as long as I have been practicing medicine and then some. We offer it a lot and have a moderate number of takers in the clinic. There are benefits to placing this little chip into your pet. It gives us a permanent identity of this pet. No questions from now on as to whether the black and white cat with the one white whisker is really Sammy that has been missing for a month in the cold.
There have been quite a few success stories with reunions of pet and owners online, even after years missing, and some I have personally seen in my offices. We once had a cat from Michigan end up in Ohio and the now owners story isn’t quite adding up. The cat’s owner tells us that the cat is intact but on the exam it has been neutered. We decided to scan it for a chip and guess what? It has one. The truck driving current owner took an assumed “stray cat” who actually has a little boy who put signs up looking for it back in Michigan. I once even saw a dog with three microchips in it. Seriously three. So obviously the success of the microchip is only as good as the person scanning for one first before placing another! This story was a little odd too. We found the three microchip debacle on accident. The dog came in to a 2 doctor practice for a health check, spay and vaccines. During the initial work-up the first vet did the vaccines and chip (without scanning it first) then scheduled a spay. The second vet, me, was going to perform the spay (a few days later). The microchip was scanned and it didn’t read the number the first vet had put in. So we tried again, funny thing- a different brand was registering. So we take an x-ray. The microchips will show up nicely in a radiograph film. Not only was there the new chip, the chip that was reading, but also a third chip all within about 2 inches of each other. A least the placement was consistent.
I tell that not so successful story to remind us that we are all human. Animals get lost, mistakes can be made. For the microchip avid believers out there, remember that there can be some faults to the system. A person that finds a stray animal still needs to take it to a vet or shelter to look for a chip. The chip readers might not all be universal- they are getting close though. So sometimes the animal doesn’t get home right away. The way I see it, it is still a tiny little insurance policy that you can use to keep your dog or cat safe. These chips help tell a story, maybe we can know a little bit about where they have been. Since your pet can’t tell us about his travels, let the chip be the ticket home. Safe travels my friends.