Did you hear about the lost dog who borrowed a mobile phone and texted his owner his location? Or about the cat who slipped out, strayed too far and called an Uber to give her a ride back home?
I didn't think so. Unfortunately, pets haven't yet developed the ability to phone home or ask for a ride. But fortunately, technology does exist to help them be found sooner: pet microchips.
August 15th has been designated "National Check the Chip Day" by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) "To remind pet owners to have their pets microchipped and to keep the registration information up-to-date" because "Microchips greatly increase the chances that pets will be reunited with their families if they are lost or stolen…but a microchip only works if its registration information is accurate."
Microchips are tiny transponders that can be implanted just under your pet's skin, usually between the shoulder blades, by a veterinary professional. Each microchip contains a unique registration number that can be read by a special scanner that most veterinarian offices and animal shelters possess. This registration number is then provided to the indicated microchip company who in turn can provide the owner's contact information.
There are many misconceptions about microchips and how they work, a popular one being that if a pet wears a collar with an ID tag, a microchip isn't needed. Consider though how easily your pet's collar could slip off or be removed, not to mention many indoor pets don't wear their collars inside, and can slip out without that identification. Microchips offer permanent identification that can't fall off or be removed.
Another popular myth is that a microchip works as a tracking device, like your phone's GPS app. For better or worse, this is completely untrue. Microchips do not emit a GPS or cellular signal capable of being tracked. Instead, they work using radio-frequency identification (RFID) and must be scanned using a device that most animal shelters and veterinary offices have on hand.
Also, many people avoid having their pet microchipped because they believe the procedure involves surgery and anesthesia. Not true! Microchipping is a quick, simple, virtually painless procedure comparable to a vaccination shot. The device itself is a very small (about the size of a grain of rice) cylindrical device that is inserted just under your pet's skin using a sterile applicator, usually between the shoulder blades.
Microchips are also very affordable and in most cases will stay in place for your pet's entire life. Sounds like an easy "one and done" deal, right? Well, yes and no. The procedure itself is quick and easy, but a microchip is useless if it's not registered and kept up-to-date with correct contact information. Too often, pets are found and their microchip is scanned only to discover that it was never registered or that the information leads to an old address or phone number.
If your pet already has a microchip and you're unsure of the registration information, have your veterinarian scan the chip. They can let you know what company the microchip is registered with, and how to update your information. Then, be sure to update this information whenever you move or change phone numbers. And if your pet is placed with another person, let them know how to update the chip with their information.
Make an appointment with your pet's veterinarian or call the SPCA Veterinary Care Center, where microchips are available for just $25, and you don't even need an appointment. Call 803-648-6863 or visit spcavetcare.org for hours.
Check your pet's chip or get one today to greatly increase the chances of lost, becoming found.
Sarah Neikam is the Communications & Marketing Director for the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. She is an Aiken native and has been with the SPCA since 2012. Sarah lives in Graniteville with her family which includes three adopted cats: Bastian, Luna and Grady, who are all living happy, loved lives thanks to the efforts of the SPCA.