PASSION FOR PETS
MICROCHIPS: THE EVOLUTION OF PET IDENTIFICATION
In the 1980’s I had my first experience with microchips as an identification of Emus. These large flightless birds were hard to tell apart and leg bands were dangerous to apply and hard to read. I started placing microchips in the tail tissue and used a “reader” to keep records on the individual birds. Since then the use of these chips has evolved for the benefit of animals in many ways. Specific identification using a “chip” was required for international shipment of pets…certification of health in dogs ( i.e. hips, elbows, eyes, and heart)…and Florida Fish and Wildlife has statutes requiring microchipping for the large snakes (Burmese, Reticulated, and African Rock Pythons and Anacondas).
As veterinarians we recommend and apply many microchips as a form of permanent identification of pets. The “chip” is actually a small sterile glass pellet inserted (aseptically) under the skin usually between the shoulder blades. A “reader” or transponder is used to “read” the chip number which is on a copper strip in the glass pellet. This sterile glass pellet is inert and has a very low risk of problems. Some early reports claimed that they caused cancer, but these reports were mostly un-documented. I have had an occasional chip come out as a result of infection around the chip. I recommend that veterinarians apply the chips ( it is a fairly large needle to insert the chip). Owners can buy the chips and administer them themselves, but registration of the chips is often not followed through.
The most wonderful result of microchipping is when an animal is “lost” and shows up elsewhere… the chip is identified, and the animal is reunited with the family. I have heard of Florida dogs ending up in Ohio and being reunited 5 years later!!! If someone steals your dog, they can remove collars and tags, but a microchip can prove ownership.
There are several competing “chip” manufacturers. The chips used to be a 9 digits but are now “European” with 15 numbers and digits. The frequencies are different for Europe and America but most scanners will pick up all the chips. This is not always the case for the older scanners. The microchips are NOT gps locators and can only give up their ID numbers when they are “read” by a scanner. When we have a stray or found animal come into the veterinary Hospital, we will first scan for a chip, and we can often find the owner if an ID chip is found.
I have used microchips in dogs, cats,horses, ferrets, birds, snakes, camels, and even used one in an elephant. New technology has even developed “doggie doors “ that recognize the pets chip, and disallow entry through the door by other animals ( including the raccoon). While animal recovery requires registration and central information banking of the animal/owner information, efforts to simplify this are ongoing. The latest for us is a system called “Save This Life” which uses Google to help find the owners of the lost animal. This generation of microchip includes a coating to prevent migration of the chip, and a metal tag with a machine stamped # ID. The ID can be “Googled” with subsequent ability to privately contact the pets owner with text messaging or e-mail. The pet owner even receives a GPS map of where the finder of the pet is located. This chip even includes a $1000. Lost Pet Health Insurance for 1 year after activation. The Save This Life also send out alerts to shelter and rescues within 25 miles and a Lost Pet Poster is sent to the owner…. Amazing advance in animal technology.