Microchipping Your Pet

beagle-type dog sitting in the middle of a path, on a leash that no one is holding

An estimated 10 million pets go missing in the United States every year, and one of the best ways to ensure a lost pet gets returned to his owner is by having him microchipped. The process is quick, easy and affordable. Read on for answers to some of the more common questions about microchipping.

dog at front door on welcome mat

Why should I microchip my pet?

Microchipping greatly increases the odds that a pet will find his way back to his owner. According to a study of more than 7,700 pets brought to animal shelters, microchipped dogs were reunited with their owners over 52% of the time, while those without microchips were returned to their owners only about 22% of the time. The feline statistics are even more staggering: Cats with microchips were returned to their owners 38.5% of the time compared to just 1.8% of cats without chips.

It’s important to note that a microchip is not a substitute for an identification tag but an added safeguard for pets. Shelters suggest that your dog or cat always wear a collar with an identification tag that includes your pet’s name and your phone number.

Where can I get my pet microchipped?

Find a vet that offers microchip implantation. Some animals shelters also offer this service.

How is the chip inserted, and will it hurt my pet?

microchip size compared to a penny

It’s a simple procedure that doesn’t require anesthetic. Using a hypodermic needle, the chip — which is about the size of a grain of rice and will last your pet’s lifetime — is injected between your pet’s shoulder blades. It takes just a matter of seconds and won’t be very painful; it’s comparable to getting a vaccination.

How much does it cost?

The cost of microchipping is generally between $25-$50 and may or may not include the manufacturer registration fee.

Veterinarian identifies cat ID by scanning microchip implant

How does it work?

The permanent ID microchip uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology and is not a GPS tracking device. When a lost pet is taken to a veterinary practice or animal shelter, the chip is scanned for the identification number.

The number can then be entered into a chip lookup database. If the chip is registered, the database will provide contact information for the registry (not the pet owner). The registry can then be alerted that a lost pet was found, and the organization will get in touch with the pet owner. In the event that the chip isn’t registered, sometimes it can be traced back to the veterinary clinic or shelter where it was implanted.

Do I need to do anything after my pet has been microchipped?

Yes! You’ll need to register your microchip both with the manufacturer and a “universal” registry, which registers any microchip brand. Depending on the registry, you may need to pay a registration fee or do updates, while others are free of charge.

Found Animals — a non-profit whose mission is to reunite lost pets with their owners — is completely free universal registry and supports all microchip brands. The organization is also part of the Universal Pet Microchip Lookup, the American Animal Hospital Association’s database of registries that participate in the program.

Is my contact info secure, or can anybody access it by scanning my pet’s microchip?

The chip doesn’t store your contact information — just your pet’s ID number — so your info isn’t readily available for anyone to see. Once the pet’s chip number is identified and the registry is contacted, the registry will reunite the pet with his owner.

Veterinarian checks microchip implant with scanner

I adopted my pet. How do I know if he’s already microchipped?

You can take your pet to a veterinary clinic or animal shelter and have him scanned to see if he has a microchip. Also check your adoption paperwork, as it might have the chip ID number. If he is microchipped, be sure your contact information is updated with a registry.

What else should I know about microchipping?

The most important thing is to register the chip and keep your contact info up-to-date. If you move or change your phone number, make sure to update that information so the correct info is on file. One in three pets will get lost at some point in their life, and microchipping greatly increases the likelihood that they will be reunited with their owners.