PAWS AND REFLECT | Microchips ensure a lost pet's return

Approximately one out of every three pets is lost each year. Streetlight posts and bulletin boards are plastered every day with fliers by owners hoping to be reunited with their beloved pets. Many of these fliers state that their pets have collars with ID tags, and owners figure this is how a good Samaritan will contact them. 

But what happens if your pet gets stuck on a branch or under a fence and its collar breaks off? How will a veterinarian or shelter know to whom the dog or cat belongs? 

Animals brought into shelters without any means to contact their owners can simply remain lost. Some are adopted into new homes, and some unfortunately meet the end of their journey. It is very disconcerting when many of these animals could have been easily reconnected with their owners if they had had a microchip. 


A harmless, safe ID

Microchipping your pet is a simple procedure that takes place in your veterinarian’s office or even can be done at The Humane Society. 

The microchip itself is a very tiny computer chip, about the size of a grain of rice that has an identification number programmed into it. It is injected into the skin between the shoulder blades and takes only a few seconds. Usually your pet will not react any more than they would to a routine vaccination. 

Microchips are safe, permanent IDs that never can be removed or damaged, unlike a collar with tags, and are designed to last the life of your pet. 

If a lost pet is brought into a shelter or veterinarian office, it is standard practice to scan the pet and see if it has a chip. Microchips are read by passing a special microchip scanner over the region where the chip was implanted. The scanner will pick up the one-of-a-kind number and identify the pet. The microchip company is then called, such as Avid or Home Again, and the contact information for the owner is retrieved. 


Updating owner’s information

Many times, when we contact these companies, the data was never updated, and we are unable to reach the owner. The clinic or shelter where the microchip was administered, however, is also listed as a contact, and this is how we sometimes need to attempt to reach the owner: by obtaining contact information through them based on the microchip number. 

Regardless, a microchip without current contact information is essentially useless, so it is important if your pet receives a microchip that you update the microchip company with your current information. This is especially important if you move, adopt from a rescue or shelter, or if ownership of the animal is transferred. 

Some veterinary clinics now are even choosing to enter the contact information for you. They will ask you to fill out an enrollment form with the contact information you wish to be listed. 

It is important to be aware that the microchip will only identify your pet if it is physically scanned. A microchip is not like a LoJack and will not help you track your pet if it is lost or stolen. 

MEGAN L. FOUCH is the office manager at the Madison Park Veterinary Hospital ( To comment on this story, write to

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