Up to 8 million animals end up in shelters every year. Unfortunately, only 15-20% of dogs and less than 2% of cats are ever reclaimed by their owners. One of the ways to increase the chances of finding your lost pet is having it microchipped. We asked Louise Murray, DVM, director of medicine for the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City to explain microchipping.
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Q: What is microchipping, and can it be done to any animal?
A: A needle is used to place a little chip under the animal’s skin, usually between the shoulder blades. That chip has a unique number on it that can be picked up and read by a scanner.
It can be done to lots of different animals, including horses, dogs, cats, ferrets, and most other mammals.
Q: How long does it take, and does it have to be done by a veterinarian?
A: It takes the same amount of time it takes to give any injection. It takes seconds. It takes more time to do the paperwork than implant the microchip.
No, it doesn’t have to be done by a veterinarian, although it’s recommended a veterinarian do it.
Q: Is it painful to my pet?
A: It hurts about as much as having blood drawn. It’s a large needle. There’s a pinch. A lot of people have it done when their pets are being spayed or neutered for that reason. But I’ve seen a lot of animals not even flinch when it happens.
Q: What does it cost?
A: If you’re going to a vet just to get a microchip done, it’s probably going to cost around $50. But if you have it done while you're having other things done, like your regular check up, then it will probably be a bit less because you’ve already paid for the office visit.
People also can check with local animal shelters or rescue groups, which often do it for less.
Q: I’ve heard animals have died when a chip was implanted incorrectly. Is the procedure dangerous?
A: There have been some cases of complications. It’s rare, but it can happen. That’s why, even though there’s no law that requires veterinarians implant the chips, we recommend it. Because it does matter where you put it and how you inject it.
Q: Have studies found an increased risk of cancer in pets with microchips?
A: There have been animals that have developed tumors at the site of the microchip. It’s incredibly rare, compared to the millions and millions of animals that have had microchips implanted in them. It’s an incredibly low risk, but it can happen.