Microchips for pets aren’t quite the dystopian technology that they sound. Instead, they are highly effective, life-saving option for any animal under your care. So what are they? A tiny (about the size of a grain of rice) chip that is injected under the skin (it takes about 5 seconds to do), that can be read by special scanners when needed. They are passive, meaning nothing is transmitted from them, and no extra data is stored in them. They only store a unique 15-digit number, which shows up when a scanner is used. You can register that number in an online database, so that if someone finds your pet, they can look up the number on your pet’s microchip, and find contact details. Think of it like a more foolproof version of a collar tag with your number on the back. Shelters, rescue groups, and vet hospitals all have scanners, so if your pet ends up as a stray, we can check to see if they have a microchip, and get her home to you.

The Pros

Microchips are standardized across the world, so if your pet has one placed, it will work wherever you are (or, more importantly, where your pet is!), whether that is Joliet, across Illinois, or in Japan!

  • Microchips are painless. The initial injection is a serious pinch, but it is over in <1 second, and within a couple days the site is completely healed. For the rest of your pet’s life, she will be protected. Many rescue groups place them before your pet is even adopted (ask if this is the case, so you can update contact information), and we can place them while your pet is under anesthesia, or even awake during a regular appointment!
  • Microchips are cheap. Purchasing the microchip is affordable, and once you register the number, your contact information will remain in the database until you remove it. There are annual memberships available to provide additional perks, but they aren’t necessary to keep your pet protected.
  • Microchips (and the owners who get them for their pets) are heroes. Each of our staff members have seen countless reunions that wouldn’t have been possible without the help of a microchip. Whenever a stray comes in, everyone on staff holds their breath while we scan for a chip – if we find one, there is an audible cheer as we realize this pet is going to get back home. When we don’t find a chip, we all sigh and give that pet a cuddle, knowing chances are much lower that he’ll get back to his family, and our job shifts to finding a new family to love him.

The Cons

  • It’s not really a “con”, but microchips are not GPS devices. If your pet gets away, you can’t track his location with a microchip. There are such devices available, often to be used on a collar or harness. Microchips are designed to last the lifetime of your pet, and as such, do not need batteries (like all GPS devices currently available), and to be more foolproof than collars (which can come off, or may not be in place when a pet goes walkabout).
  • Very rarely (I’ve never seen this happen, in 18 years working in the veterinary and pet rescue world) pets can develop an infection after a microchip is placed. To prevent this, we disinfect the site before placing it, and ask you to keep the pet out of water for a few days as it settles.
  • Once in a blue moon (again, I’ve only seen this happen twice in 18 years), a microchip may stop functioning. Usually this happens after trauma to the microchip. If this happens, a new chip can be placed safely and your registration updated to reflect the new number. We can scan your pet anytime to ensure her microchip is still 100% functional.

That’s it! Let us know if you need your pet’s microchip number (if it’s not in our file, we can have you come in and re-scan your pet quickly!) or would like to place one. Anything that helps lost pets get back home makes us happy campers!

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