A microchip is a rice grain sized radio frequency identification transponder that is tied to a unique ID number. It requires no battery or power, and risks to your dog are minimal. If your dog gets lost, the microchip can be scanned by a vet or shelter and will transmit the ID number. If the microchip ID is registered in a database, they’ll be able to match the ID number to the owner. Microchips are no more invasive than a vaccine, and are usually injected between your dog’s shoulder blades. Your vet will be able to microchip your dog if they don’t have a chip yet.
The microchip can be injected under your dog’s loose skin between the shoulder blades at a routine vet visit. While the needle is larger than that used for a vaccine, the procedure does not require any anesthesia. A lot of vets opt to implant microchips when dogs come in for their spaying or neutering as they will already be under anesthesia.
No, a microchip needs to be physically scanned to retrieve the ID number and is not a tracking device. While the microchip will not be able to guide you to your missing dog, having a microchip dramatically increases your chances of being reunited with a missing dog. In fact, according to AKC reunite, microchipped dogs are 20 times more likely to be returned to their owners (assuming the microchip registration is up to date).
Microchips do not store your pet’s medical information and is not a replacement for collar ID tags or rabies tags. You’ll only be able to store your contact information in the microchip registration (e.g., name, phone number, address) and you can choose what information to provide so you don’t need to be overly concerned about your privacy. The information will only be retrieved if the microchip is physically scanned. Additionally, you can easily opt out of any communications sent by the manufacturer.
To read a microchip, the vet or shelter will use a scanner that gives off radio waves. The microchip is activated by the radio waves and the scanner will be able to read the ID number. The term microchip frequency refers to the radio frequency of the wave given off by the scanner.
The ISO, or International Standards Association, has set global frequency standards so that the microchip identification system is standard globally. Basically, if your dog gets lost somewhere outside the US and they have a ISO microchip, they’ll be able to scan your dog and find you as well! The ISO standard frequency is 134.2 kHz. The US does not require microchips to be ISO compliant and there are other microchip frequencies available, but we strongly recommend ensuring your dog’s microchip is ISO standard compliant.
There is no centralized database in the US that houses all microchip numbers. Each manufacturer has its own database and when the microchip is scanned, it will also tell the person the manufacturer so they will check the correct database. Some databases require an annual membership fee, some charge a one-time lifetime fee, and there are some free ones.
According to AVMA, “there have been some reports associating cancer with implanted microchips. However, the majority of them were being used for cancer studies when the tumors were found, and the rat and mice strains used in the studies were known to be more likely to develop cancer.” The risk of the microchip leading to cancer is far outweighed by the upside of the microchip helping reunite you with your dog.
You can register your microchip online. It’s a quick and easy process so you should do it right after getting your dog microchipped. To complete the registration, you will need to know the microchip number. You can either get this from your vet or shelter, or take your dog into a vet to have the number scanned. If you’d like to know your manufacturer, you can ask your vet or use the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup (this is not for microchip registration).
Here is a list of the most commonly used universal databases. Whichever you choose, know that some databases are universal and allow you to register all microchips regardless of the manufacturer, while some will only allow you to register their microchip.