Microchipping pets: Everything you need to know

Microchipping pets

The panic of losing a pet is heartbreaking for pet owners and a traumatic experience for the lost animal. Yet hundreds of Aussie pets each year become homeless or end up in pounds, where it is estimated that up to 200,000 pets are euthanised yearly. To me, that thought is unbearable and is the reason that microchipping pets is essential.

When I decided to microchip my beloved dog, Honey, I was initially unsure about the procedure. However, after researching and consulting with my vet, I realised how crucial it was for her safety. Seeing Honey's chip being inserted was quick and painless, phew!

The peace of mind that came with microchipping became evident when Honey accidentally slipped out of our backyard one day. She went missing for three long hours, but thanks to her microchip, we were quickly reunited. The joy and relief I felt cannot be overstated.

By sharing my journey, I hope to highlight the benefits and ease any concerns you may have about microchipping your pets. It's a small step that can profoundly impact their safety and your peace of mind.

Further reading: 9 Low maintenance pets for your kids to love.

A simple explanation of microchipping pets

Microchipping is a routine, non-invasive, inexpensive, and painless procedure for pets. It involves implanting a rice grain-sized chip under the loose skin between your cat's or dog's shoulder blades.

When scanned, the microchip reveals the unique permanent identification device (PID) number that the manufacturer can use to contact a pet's owner. It can't help you pinpoint the location of your beloved furry companion—that's the job of GPS—but it can help you identify the vet or animal shelter that found your pet.

Microchips are designed to be permanent. That means, in general, your pet only needs to be microchipped once in their life. As a transponder, microchips don't need charging or battery replacements.

Not fond of dogs and cats? Fret not, because you can also microchip horses, rabbits, birds, ferrets, tortoises, and snakes.

The importance of getting your pet microchipped

Admittedly, I was hesitant to have my dog, Honey, get microchipped. But after researching about the pros and cons, I decided that the procedure offers far more benefits than risks.

For starters, microchipping cats and dogs is mandatory here in Australia. All cats and dogs must be microchipped before a sale or adoption. It's a prerequisite to your pet's registration in the national pet database. In fact, failure to have your pet undergo the procedure may result in a penalty of up to $880. Yikes!

Microchipping also improves the chances to find lost pets. The vet can scan the microchip and contact the manufacturer to inform you of your furry friend's whereabouts.

And third, microchipping helps prevent overcrowding in rescue shelters. By ensuring that your pet does not needlessly end in a shelter and contribute to its overcrowding, you are helping prevent euthanasia.

The procedure for inserting the microchip

Take your pet to the vet

Microchipping is done as early as 8 weeks. Only a registered veterinarian or an authorised implanter who has received training can perform microchipping procedures.

The vet implants the microchip

The vet inserts the microchip into the loose skin between your pet's shoulder blades using a special syringe. This is usually done in a few seconds, and requires no surgery or anaesthesia. The procedure is relatively painless, and your beloved pet feels almost nothing.

Perform a test scan

After implanting the microchip, the vet should test if the microchip works as intended. The scan should reveal the unique PID number.

Register your pet

Make sure that the procedure is registered with the chip manufacturer. Provide complete and accurate details, as the benefits of microchipping rely on the information you give.

If you're worried about data privacy, rest assured that random persons cannot access the information you have shared with the manufacturer's registry. They will also contact you only when your pet is found.

Monitor your pet for adverse reactions to the microchip

In rare cases, pets may react negatively to the microchip. Keep on the lookout for signs of inflammation or infection, and report any adverse reaction to the vet.

Have the microchip scanned every year

Although microchips last a lifetime, you want to have it scanned regularly to ensure it works properly.

This also checks if the chip is in its original place. Sometimes, the microchip moves to another part of the body. This usually happens in animals that are really active or have loose skin. A microchip travelling is not a cause for alarm.

What to do if you change address

Two years ago, I made a temporary work-related move to Victoria and took my dog with me. The vet was at a conference then, but I easily found the manufacturer's contact details in the microchip paperwork. I quickly identified the database Honey's microchip is registered with and amended the details for free.

While microchipping your cat or dog takes mere seconds, it is not a one-and-done deal. The microchip manufacturer can only reach you using your contact information. So, if you can't be reached using your old contact details, your pet's microchip is, well, practically useless.

You also change the details in the registry when transferring your pet to a new owner. You don't need to replace the microchip but contact details in the database have to be updated.

Note that neither the vet nor the animal organisation can access our contact details on the database. It's our responsibility as pet owners to reach out to the microchip manufacturer and update our pet's records.

How to know if your newly adopted pet is microchipped

There's a very high change that your pet is already microchipped when you adopt it. After all, Australian laws mandate breeders and animal organisations to microchip all cats and dogs as early as 8 weeks. You will usually find these records in your pet's paperwork.

If you're unsure whether your pet has been microchipped, head to your nearest vet clinic or animal welfare organisation to have your furry friend scanned.

Final words on microchipping pets

If you're still thinking about whether you will microchip your cat or dog, I'm here to tell you it's worth it.

Microchipping offers a better chance to reunite with a missing pet, something every loving cat or dog owner will appreciate.

But microchipping is more than just a reliable method to find your pet. It is also required by law of every Aussie fur parent. Although laws mandate all cats and dogs to be microchipped before getting sold or adopted, it is best if you still check with the vet to see if your pet still needs the procedure.

Thankfully, this non-invasive procedure is completed in only a few seconds with virtually no risk to your beloved pet. Microchips last forever, and the only thing you have to do is ensure your contact information is always updated.

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Jess Guilfoyle

About the author

Jess is the Charity and Events Coordinator for PETstock Assist, PETstock’s very own charity foundation. Jess has always been an animal lover and passionate about helping to improve the lives of pets and families.

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