Friday, May 3, 2019
Microchips...make sure you follow through!
I know it's been a while since I posted...bad Becky! However I wanted to make this info available somewhere I could refer people back to easily. I wanted to talk about microchips and how to maximize your pet's protection.
For those who are completely unfamiliar, it is common practice to microchip pets in order to give them a permanent ID and help facilitate their return should they become lost. The microchip is the size of a grain of rice and is injected under the skin over the shoulderblades where it SHOULD stay for the life of the pet. A scanner can be used to read the chip number and use the information to identify the pet and it's owner. Microchips CANNOT be used to track the pet using GPS. They use RFID technology which uses radio waves to transmit the info. Most shelters routinely scan dogs at intake to find owner info; also most pets adopted from shelters are microchipped prior to adoption. In addition, microchips are often used to permanently identify pets when performing pre-breeding testing such as OFA radiographs for hip certification, eye exams, and DNA testing. If your pet travels internationally, it is also likely that it must be microchipped to ensure that the health information that accompanies it belongs to that pet alone.
One of the downsides to microchip technology is that it has not been well standardized, so there are differing types of chips some of which can only be read by their own or "universal" scanners. The technology between the US and other countries also has sometimes been different, so chips implanted in one country might not be read by scanners in another. Chips can have 9, 10, or 15 digits. In general we would recommend using an ISO compliant chip. Home Again and Avid EURO chips are 10 digit ISO compliant and are the most common ones used in the US; they can be read by most scanners. Regular Avid chips are 9 digit and cannot be read in Europe or by many US scanners. AKC Reunite chips are 15 digits which is the world standard, but there may still be scanners in the US that do not read them. We use Home Again chips in our practice, as we have found they are generally read by almost all scanners and are the least likely to migrate.
The most important thing to remember after your pet is microchipped is that the CHIP MUST BE REGISTERED IN ORDER FOR IT TO BE USED TO TRACK YOUR PET. This is the step that many pet owners forget and it is the most important one to remember! I typically recommend and use the AKC Reunite microchip registry (even though I prefer Home Again chips). You can enroll online at www.akcreunite.org. They charge a reasonable fee for lifetime registration, are a stable entity, and participate in the AAHA universal microchip lookup. Other chip registries may charge annual fees and offer many "value added" services. It is important to realize that microchip registration is SEPARATE from AKC registration; it must be completed separately (although it can be done at the same time as AKC individual registration). Your pet does not have to be AKC registered or even a dog to use AKC Reunite- you can register your cat's microchip as well. The most important things to remember when choosing a registry are 1) DO IT! Make sure to register your pet's chip and keep the name and phone number of the registry and your pet's microchip number where you can find them easily (I email them to myself and save the email to a permanent file in my email program titled "Pet's info" etc). 2) Choose a registry which participates in the AAHA universal microchip lookup program (www.petmicrochiplookup.org). 3). Once your pet is registered, go to the universal lookup page and make sure when you plug in the chip number that the correct registry comes up with the correct date for most recent changes. 4) Go to the page for the registry you have chosen, plug in your chip number, and make sure all of the info is correct 5) Whenever your contact info changes, try to remember to update your info. However, if your pet is lost, the FIRST thing you should do is immediately check your info to make sure it is up to date and report your pet as lost to your registry (this is where knowing your microchip number is handy, but if you at least know the registry you used you can call and do this over the phone).
I recently discovered a new free registry that I would recommend using IN ADDITION to your paid regular microchip registration. It is located at www.found.org and it also participates in the universal lookup page. The nice thing about this registry is that when someone uses the universal lookup page and clicks on it, it will immediately tell them your first name, the pet's name, any important info you want them to know, and allow them to initiate a "found pet" alert which will immediately contact them by phone, email, and text and continue to attempt contact for 4 days; it will also automatically attempt to contact the emergency contacts and veterinarian if the owner does not respond. I really like this because it does not rely on busy shelter personnel to continue to try and make contact (though they must at least plug in the number to the search engine). Again, if you use this registry (and I HIGHLY recommend you do- it's free!) be sure to go back and double check all of your info to make sure numbers are correct, there are no typos, etc. I would also recommend putting any pertinent info under the "general description" section on the page where you can add a picture. For example, I put my dog's height, weight, age, that he belonged to a vet and was always current on all vaccines including bordetella and flu, but to please NOT vaccinate for lepto as he is allergic (well, actually he has a strong family tendency with a close family member having a near fatal reaction, but I wanted to keep it simple!). I also noted that if he was found I was distraught and actively looking! You could also log on at the time your pet was lost and put info such as "I am out right now searching until X:00 in the Whateverville town square area, cell phone is on". I would NOT include any info that would make your pet more appealing for someone to keep or perhaps hold hostage, other than to reiterate that it was very much wanted and a search was ongoing.
I hope this info is helpful; since the new free registry is available I would highly recommend dual registering with it (I would continue to do a paid registry just in case...sometimes free does not equal stable over the long term). Double check that info, get in touch immediately if your pet gets lost, and here's hoping we never need to test the system!