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Pet Microchipping: Frequently Asked Questions From Our Radford Patients

It can be heartbreaking for a pet to be lost or stolen. In decades past, once a pet was out of sight there was no way to locate them. Times have changed, though. It's possible to insert a tiny microchip underneath your pet's skin which will identify it to anyone who scans it. If you're considering microchipping your pet, you've probably got questions. Here are some of the most common ones:


What is a microchip? Microchips are tiny electronic chips that are set into a glass cylinder about the size of a rice grain. It contains no battery or other power source. It's activated by the scanner when it's passed over the chipped area. The scanner activates radio waves which transmit an identification code.

How will you implant the microchip into my pet?  Microchips are so tiny that no anesthesia is needed when being implanted. They're put into your pet the same way it gets a vaccination, although the needle is a bit larger. We can do it in a general checkup or other office visit. Of course, if your pet is already being anesthetized for spaying or neutering, it's the perfect time for microchipping, as well.

Will the microchip store my pet's medical information? The only thing stored on the chip is an identification number. The veterinarian or other caretaker who reads the ID number can input it into a database to find your pet's home and contact information. The microchip is not a homing beacon; you can't find your pet using a microchip. It's only used to identify your pet once it's found.

Does a microchip really make it more likely I'll get my pet back?  Yes, definitely. There was a study done in animal shelters. Pets without microchips were returned to their owners a little over 20 percent of the time, while microchipped animals went home over half the time. Registering the microchip and keeping the information up to date will aid in the return of your pet.

Who scans pets for microchips?  When pets are brought into veterinarian's offices for the first time, often the staff will scan for a microchip. All shelters scan the pets brought in to them in the hopes of finding the pet's rightful owner.

A microchip replaces ID tags, right?  No, sorry. A microchip is sort of the last resort of animal searchers. Your pet is much more likely to be returned if it has tags on its collar that include contact information. Clipping your cell phone number to your pet's collar is a great way for people who find it to get in touch with you.

If I adopt a pet, how can I find out if it has a microchip?  If you adopt a pet from a shelter, they will be able to tell you about any microchips your new pet has. Some shelters even microchip all pets in their care. If you get your pet from another source, call our office. We'll be happy to scan your new pet, and we'll let you know if it has any microchips that belong to a previous owner.