10th August 2018
Not all pet parents are aware of the facts when it comes to microchipping their dog or cat, so National Check the Chip Day (August 15th) is the perfect opportunity to learn why microchipping is a must - and how to get the most out of your pet's microchip.
A microchip is tiny - only as big as a grain of rice. It is made of silicone and coated in the same special type of bioglass as human pacemakers, which won't be rejected by your pet's body. Some microchips use a biopolymer material instead. In very technical scientifical language, a microchip is a 'radio-frequency identification transponder' - but we'll stick to thinking of it as a little implant that helps millions of pets return home to their worried parents.
Unlike a tracker, a microchip is a tiny radio transmitter. It is extremely clever in its composition, using an inbuilt antenna to generate a radio signal when stimulated by a microchip scanner. The signal broadcasts a 15-digit number, which is detected by the scanner and links it back to the details of the dog's owner on the online database where it is registered.
Microchipping has been compared to a regular pet vaccination, so it shouldn't cause your cat or dog any discomfort. In fact, they won't even require any anaesthetic and once the microchip is in - they'll never feel a thing.
Microchips are popped into a sterile syringe and inserted just under your pet's skin, between the shoulder blades. It is very important that the microchip is correctly implanted and positioned, to avoid the chip moving around (often referred to as "migrating"). Most UK vets can microchip your dog, as well as a growing number of local authorities and animal welfare groups.
The microchip itself is referred to as a "passive device", which means that it has no internal energy source and can only be activated by a universal scanner. Which means that your pet's microchip cannot "run out" and therefore, should last for as long as your dog's lifetime - and for all your cat's nine lives!
Puppies must be microchipped by the time they are 8 weeks old. Dog breeders must make sure that their puppies are microchipped before they are sold, so if you're buying your pup from a litter, it's vital that you are provided with microchipping documents before you take them home.
If your dog hasn't already been microchipped, it's your responsibility as an owner to do so. Otherwise, you'll face a £500 fine. Microchipping is a one-off payment of only between £10 and £30, with Dogs Trust also offering a free service.
Microchipping is only the first step in protecting your pooch. Equally as important as getting the chip inserted is making sure that your dog or cat's details are registered and kept up to date. Without up to date contact details, your pet's microchip is useless and its number meaningless.
12 dogs per day are put down in the UK because the owners can't be traced or contacted - even though the pups are microchipped! There are 7 different microchip databases in the UK, so if you're unsure which your pet is registered with, you can search on check-a-chip using the number on your pet insurance documents, vet records or microchip registration form.
As we've mentioned, it's vital that you keep your microchip contact details up to date so that if your pet is found, their microchip can then be correctly scanned by an animal profession using a universal scanner. According to the National Dog Warden Association, 40% of the dogs they rescue have got incomplete or inaccurate data on their chips - meaning they can't be returned.
On some databases (like Petlog) you can also add the following details as a premium member:
As of April 2016, it became compulsory for dogs to be microchipped in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, however, it is still illegal for dogs to not wear a collar with their name and address (including postcode) in a public place.
Remember that not everyone who finds your pet will know what a microchip is or what they need to do next (particularly non-dog owners!) So, a tag with your contact number is still the easiest and quickest way for you to be contacted in case of an emergency.
While it is not yet compulsory for cats as well as dogs to be chipped in the UK, according to the RSPCA, 87% of cats in 2017 (about 2 in every 5) weren't microchipped - making them much more vulnerable. Almost 1 in 2 curious cats never return after going missing, and thousands disappear every year with untraceable paw tracks.