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Everything you need to know about microchipping your pet

Dog getting his microchip checked advice

Getting a pet microchipped

© Shutterstock

Since 2016, microchipping has been a legal requirement for dogs over the age of eight weeks, for cats the process is currently optional but still highly recommended.

By Natasha James

Most of us think of our pets as members of the family so it follows that if they were lost or stolen we’d be heartbroken. Sadly, this is the case for many families as thousands of pets go missing each year. Without a chip, it will be considerably harder for Fido or Felix to find their way back home to you (or, more accurately, harder for any would-be rescuers to find out your details). But, how much do you know about the microchipping process? How does it work? Is it safe? Which service should you use? Don’t worry, we’re here to answer all of your microchipping questions to help you to make the right decision for your pet!

What are the benefits of microchipping?

1. Microchips last a lifetime

You may already have a collar with your pet’s name and your contact details on but in the age of all things digital, this method is a little outdated. Collars can be lost, can fall off or the details can fade away. A microchip is roughly the size of a grain of rice and will last a lifetime.

2. A chip increases the chance that your pet will be returned to you if they’re lost

According to the Kennel Club, there are currently 70,000 missing pets in the UK. Many of those will have been found but won’t have been chipped so potential rescuers won’t know who to return them to. A chip greatly increases the risk that your pet will be returned to you if they’re lost.

3. A chip shows proof of ownership if your pet is stolen

The microchip number (and your corresponding details on the microchip database) will provide definitive proof of ownership in the event that a pet is stolen (or your cat has a secret other family that you knew nothing about!).

How does microchipping work?

A microchip is about the size of a grain of rice. The chip is implanted in between the animal’s shoulder blades. It has a unique number that can be read by a scanner to retrieve your details if your pet is ever lost.

Is microchipping safe and will it hurt my pet?

Overwhelmingly, veterinarian advice is that microchipping is perfectly safe. Thousands of microchips are implanted into pets every day and in virtually every case, the process goes smoothly.

The microchip is inserted using a needle so it follows that there could be a brief period of mild discomfort for your pet (similar to when we have an injection) but largely, this is about as extreme as it gets. This is a routine procedure and not considered surgery.

What are the risks associated with microchipping?

As with any procedure, there have been a small number of cases where a pet has had a reaction. In a 2014 report by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate there were eight recorded events in the whole year; six of these involved a small swelling at the injection site, one case saw the dog faint (but go on to make a full recovery) and the final case was an unexplained death 24 hours after the procedure, although there was nothing to prove that this was linked to the microchipping process.

What’s the best microchip registry service for my pet?

A quick google search will give you a multitude of microchip registry services and each will probably claim to be the best! The truth is, as long as you choose a reputable company, many provide the same service. A good idea would be to discuss the options with your vet, breeder or the rescue provider that you got your pet from (many rescue services and reputable breeders will microchip your pet before they even get to you).

How do I change the details on my dog or cat’s microchip?

It’s important to update your details every time they change. A house move could be stressful for your pet and the risk of them getting lost higher than ever, if you’re moving house be sure to change your details straight away. Similarly, if your contact details aren’t up-to date then the microchip won’t help your lost pet to locate you.

The process of updating your pet’s microchip details is very straightforward. Firstly, you’ll need to work out which database you’re on. This will be on the paperwork that you received when you had your pet microchipped, there’s every chance that a copy is in your email account too but if you can’t find this information then your vet will be able to get this information by scanning your pet.

Then, once you have the number, it’s a simple matter of contacting the company who holds your pet’s information and requesting the change.

Microchipping offers ultimate reassurance

Microchipping dogs is now mandatory but cat owners get to decide for themselves. For a simple and cost-effective procedure and a chip the size of a grain of rice, we think the reassurance that your pet will come home to you should they get lost makes the process invaluable.