The Dog Microchip Guide: Why & How Microchipping Saves dogs?

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dog microchip
Has your furbaby ever jumped the fence in your back yard or slipped out the front door and disappeared in the neighborhood? Hopefully, you were able to find him quickly. But what if you can’t find your special pal? That may depend on whether or not you’ve invested in a dog microchip.
In 2010, the ASPCA conducted a telephone survey of 1,015 households. They found that 15% of the respondents had lost their dog or cat in the past 5 years. In the case of missing pups,
A 2009 study of 7700 stray animals that were taken to the local shelter revealed that pooches with microchips were linked to their owners 52.2% of the time while only 2.2% of the pups without this ID made it back home. If you can’t find your four-footed friend in your neighborhood, you could increase your chances of a reunion if you microchip your dog.
A microchip is a radio frequency transponder that’s about the size of a grain of rice. The tiny transmitter is injected under the skin using a hypodermic needle similar to those used to give your furry pal a vaccination. This device carries a specific identification number that’s detectable with a scanner.
You can microchip your pooch at any age. Many shelters will implant the device in animals as young as eight weeks. Another good time to have it done is when you spay or neuter your furbaby. The veterinarian can insert it while Fido is still resting under anesthesia.
According to the Humane Society, microchips, are designed to last for 25 years, so they should work throughout your pup’s lifetime.
What Does a Dog Microchip Look Like?
Credit Harradine & Associates:
A microchip is a minuscule electronic chip that’s encased in a glass cylinder. The device is about the size and shape of a grain of rice. Inside the glass capsule, there’s a copper antenna coil, a tuning capacitor, and the chip.
Each transponder has its own unique identification code, like a vehicle identification number. When a veterinarian’s office or shelter uses a scanner, it will activate the microchip so that the number can be determined. If Fido’s owner registered the microchip with the manufacturer, this number provides a link to their contact information.

Microchip Information privacy

The scanner will only detect a microchip’s ID number and manufacturer. Anyone who scans Fido’s chip would have to contact the manufacturer or a registry to get your contact information, and according to the AVMA, there are protections to help ensure that your identification is secure.

Keeping the microchip functional

Under normal circumstances, there’s nothing you need to do to maintain the microchip, but there are a few things you can do to be proactive:

The durability of a microchip

We’re dealing with technology, which means there’s a risk that the microchip could stop functioning properly. Fortunately, it’s rare. In one study of 2,632 microchips implanted in pets, only 11(0.42%) failed.
While microchips shouldn’t replace a collar and ID tag, they’re an important component of protecting your special pal. Having your pup implanted offers some valuable benefits, like:
Microchipping is a safe procedure in most cases. But with any medical procedure where you implant a foreign body, there are a few possible side effects. Fortunately, they are quite rare.
Will Having a Microchip Implanted Hurt My Dog?
The implanting procedure is not much more painful than a routine shot. As with vaccinations, a hypodermic needle is inserted under the skin to place the microchip. The glass capsule is biocompatible or non-toxic to Fido, so it shouldn’t cause an allergic reaction.
The cost will vary depending on your location and whether you schedule an appointment just to microchip Fido or have it done during a routine office visit. According to, the average cost for implantation and registration is about $45.
If you’re on a limited income, there may be lower cost options in your area, such as that offered by the CCSPCA adoption center in Fresno, CA. This facility offers services as low as $15.
The Animal Foundation in Las Vegas, NV also provides reduced-price microchipping for $25. Check with your veterinarian or your local shelter to see if there are more affordable options where you live.

You may also be able to reduce your costs by purchasing a kit from Amazon and bringing it to your veterinarian during Fido’s annual checkup. There are options available from HomeAgainPro-ID (registration fee not included), Animal ID (comes in a 20-pack – this would be a great deal if you’re involved in dog rescue!), and others.

If you choose to purchase a microchip kit this way, we strongly recommend that you have a veterinarian or other trained individual inject it for you.
What Dog Microchips Don’t Do
Microchips are a helpful identification device because they won’t fall off and they’re tamper-proof. But for the best results, you should use them in combination with other identification. The devices have their limitations.

It Won’t Tell You Your Dog’s Location

No, a microchip is not equipped with a GPS tracker. It remains dormant unless a compatible scanner activates it to read the ID number.

Dog Microchip VS. GPS Tracker

It Doesn’t Contain Your Dog’s Health Information

Once again, no. Although some devices used for research animals and with livestock can track body temperature, dog microchips do not hold any health data. Some of the registries will allow you to include Fido’s health information in their database, however.

Microchip isn't a replacement for ID tag

Think of the Microchip as a backup form of identification. It’s not meant to replace a collar with a rabies tag and identification badge.
When you’re ready to get your pup microchipped, how do you choose the right one? There are some important things to ask about the device and the manufacturer.
Choosing the right Microchip for your dog
If you’re having Fido microchipped, ask if the manufacturer makes ISO compliant devices. Using a chip that meets these standards is important because it helps make the location process easier should you lose your pup anywhere in the world.
Microchips use something called Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to transmit information to the scanner. In the early days of microchipping, different companies had chips with different transmission frequencies. The scanners of the day were tuned to a specific frequency, and that meant that microchips could be missed if the clinic or shelter didn’t have the right microchip reader.
To help correct the problem, the International Standards Organization (ISO) adopted an international standard frequency for pet microchips. The goal of the standard is to allow worldwide compatibility of devices and scanners.
If your dog is already microchipped, you may be able to contact the manufacturer and ask them. Another option is to scan the chip and check the number. The ISO compliant frequency for a pet microchip is 134.2 kHz, so if Fido’s chip has another frequency it doesn’t meet the standards. Additionally, an ISO compliant microchip will have 15 digits. Non-compliant devices usually have 10 digits or sometimes nine.
The microchip frequency is the radio wave frequency that activates the device. The ISO standard frequency is 134.2 kHz. Other microchip frequencies currently available in the United States are 128 kHz and 125 kHz.

Microchip considerations for International travel

ISO Compatible Microchip - traveling with your dog
All European countries use ISO Compatible microchips for implanting in pets, and it’s best for your pooch to also have a compliant device. If Fido has a non-compatible chip, it may not be necessary to implant a new one. If you do, you would need to report both IDs on your paperwork. The Animal Plant Health Inspection Service lists your options:
*** If you have a new device implanted, the EU requires that you have your furbaby vaccinated for Rabies after the implantation.
Your veterinarian should be able to implant a microchip during a routine visit. Most clinics have microchips in stock. Because the procedure is similar to giving Fido a shot, no anesthesia is necessary. Even though the process is simple, let your pup’s doctor handle it. They know how to implant the device properly and how to treat any negative reactions or side effects.
The tiny device fits inside a hypodermic needle. Your veterinarian or a trained technician knows where and how to place the microchip to ensure that a scanner will be able to detect and read it.
The doctor inserts the device between Fido’s shoulder blades and under his skin using a hypodermic needle that’s a little larger than the ones used for vaccinations. For your pup, the procedure will feel similar to getting a shot.

Can You Microchip a Dog Twice? Yes. The chips will not interfere with each other. A microchip has a transponder that’s activated only when a scanner that’s tuned to read its frequency passes over it.

Locating the microchip on your dog

Because the device is so tiny, it can be hard to detect. On some dogs, you’ll be able to feel the firm, rice-sized object. But in some cases, it may have migrated from the original location or be too deep to palpate.
Using gentle pressure, run your fingertips along Fido’s skin starting between the shoulder blades. Use a methodical approach as you work up and down from shoulder to head then side to side until you have palpated the whole neck area. If you don’t feel a microchip, there could still be one in your pup. The next step would be to have your furbaby scanned.

Removing Microchip From My Dog

We don’t recommend it. While it is possible to remove the microchip, it’s not as simple as implanting one. The device can migrate after it’s deposited under the skin, so there’s no way to mark the exact location. If your veterinarian can feel the chip under the skin, he may be able to make a small incision to remove it. Otherwise, a radiograph and more extensive exploration will be needed to find the tiny device. In the long run, this would cause more trauma than leaving the microchip in place.
Dog microchip registration
Microchips are good for tracking owners of lost dogs. The microchip itself doesn’t carry any information about the owner. When you scan a lost dog’s microchip, all you get is the microchip id. In order to track fido back to you, you have to register the microchip. It’s wise to register directly with the manufacturer and with the national database. The national registry keeps records for all the manufacturers.
Without registration good samaritans may not be able to track your pup back to you if he’s separated from you.
There are three simple steps to register Fido’s microchip:

National Pet Microchip Registration Database

National Pet Microchip Registration Database
Pet Microchip Registration [dot] com is the official national database for pet microchips. For a one-time fee, you can register any microchip brand. Shelters and veterinary offices across the nation refer to this database when they find a microchip in a lost pet.
The Free Pet Chip Registry also provides registration for all microchip brands. There is no fee for this registry, and it is a participating pet recovery service with the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup tool.

International Companion Animal Microchip Search Tool


What if you travel abroad with your special pal? Is there a way to find Fido if he runs away in another country? PetMaxx is an international search tool for companion animal microchips. This tool searches databases in different countries to help reunite a missing pet with the owner. For the United States, PetMaxx searches the PetLink database, which is another service where you can register any brand of microchip.

If you find a lost dog, you might wonder what you should do next. 

You should call your veterinarian or the local shelter to see if they have a microchip scanner to check for a transmitter. 

If the scan gives you a chip ID and manufacturer, check the databases to see if the pup’s owner registered the transmitter. Refer to information below about look-up tools and registries.

if you found a lost dog

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) offers a Universal Pet Microchip Lookup. When someone at a shelter or veterinary clinic scans a lost pooch and finds a microchip ID, they can enter the number at this site. 

The microchip lookup is not another registry but an internet-based application. It will search the registry databases of participating companies for an ID match. If it finds the matching number, the service will provide information about which registry to contact.

A dog microchip scanner is a handheld device that sends out radio waves to activate the chip. Once the transponder activates, it will transmit the identification number back to the reader.

The Difference Between a Universal Scanner and a Standard Scanner

A standard scanner is also known as a forward-reading scanner. It can only read the 134.2 kHz radiofrequency. On the other hand, universal scanners can read both forward and backward and are able to detect all microchip frequencies. Using a universal scanner improves your chances of finding and reading a transponder if it’s there.

Examples of microchip scanners include:

Microchip scanner for personal use

Can I Buy a Scanner if I’m Not an Implanter or a Vet
Microchip readers, such as the ones listed above, are available to the general public for personal use. There are times when having your own reader can come in handy. For example, if you’re traveling to another country and want to be sure the veterinary official at the port of entry can verify your chip. In many cases, however, you can rely on the local shelter or your veterinarian to scan for a microchip. They’re likely to have more practice and experience with the scanning procedure.
It takes practice to learn how to properly scan for a dog microchip. Be systematic and patient in your approach.

Pre-Scan Preparations

Before you begin scanning, make sure the batteries are fully charged. Weak batteries can affect the reader’s function. You should also verify that your scanner is universal and able to read all chip frequencies.

Scanning Technique

AAHA Lookup compatible databases

Several companies participate with the service so that it’s easier to reconnect missing pups with their families.
finding your lost dog
If your special pal slips out the door or out of his collar, you may not be able to locate him easily. With a microchip, you increase your chances of a happy ending. That’s because if a good Samaritan finds your pooch and brings him to a local shelter or veterinary clinic, the personnel there will probably scan for a chip. If they find the ID, they’ll be able to contact you.
Microchips are not tracking devices, but they do provide identification that helps facilitate reunions. If Fido slips out the door or loses his collar but has a microchip, here are some things you can do to try to find him:

Keep your contact information up to date

If you haven’t already registered the microchip with the national database and manufacturer, do so now. This provides anyone who scans your pup’s ID with contact information. Check with the veterinarian or shelter that implanted the chip if you don’t know the number. Make sure to update vital information like a phone number or email if you already completed the registration process. The company can also “red flag” your furbaby to let others know that he’s lost.

Be Proactive

Post flyers in the neighborhood. Search the area. Report your missing dog to / PetFBI / 24PetWatch and put out lost dog notices on sites like Craigslist, Nextdoor, and local Facebook groups.

Call Shelters and Veterinary Clinics in the Area

Alert local facilities about your missing pup. Check to see if they have a dog matching your pal’s description. You can visit them and provide a flyer. Then, if Fido shows up, they’ll know who to contact.

Wait For the Manufacturer to Contact You

Once you’ve done your part, it’s a waiting game. Have someone who can man the phone or provide a cellular number to contact so that you don’t miss an important call or text message.

Reasons Why Your Dog's Microchip Might Not Work

Outright failure is rare, but there are some other reasons that an implanted microchip could be missed.
4 Inspiring Stories About Microchips
If you’re still on the fence about whether to microchip your dog, we hope these true stories about how microchips helped reunite lost pups with their owners will inspire you.

Jacksonville Family Reunited With Lost Dog by Chance

family in Jacksonville came to a Humane Society adoption event at a local Pet Smart to adopt a kitten. While they were standing in line, the father noticed one of the workers leashing a brown and white dog to take him for a walk. He immediately recognized, “Dopey” and called out the pup’s name.

Their pooch went missing at the end of summer and came to the shelter a few months later on October 1. This happy reunion occurred because the family just happened to come to the adoption event. We can only wonder if they could have found Dopey sooner if they had him microchipped.

Microchip Reunites Pup and Family After 12 Years

In 2007, a toy fox terrier named Dutchess dashed out the front door of her Orlando, FL home and disappeared. Her owner, Katheryn, checked the local shelters every day for weeks but assumed she was either hit by a car or taken by another person. Refusing to give up all hope, Katheryn continued to pay the annual microchip fee and kept her contact information current.
When someone in Pittsburgh, PA found the hungry, shivering pup cowering under his shed, he took her to the local Humane Animal Rescue facility. Staffers successfully scanned the dog’s microchip and traced it back to Katheryn, now living in Boca Raton, FL. Upon learning that her long lost furbaby had been found, Katheryn drove 1,130 miles to reunite with her pooch. Without a microchip, Katheryn may have never seen her furbaby again.

Couple Reunited With Yorkie After 6 Years

Bandit disappeared through an open gate from Tia and Gregg’s Sheridan, WY backyard six years before a good Samaritan in Colleton County, SC found him. Bandit was wandering along a Cottageville Road when the stranger picked him up and took him to an area veterinary clinic.
Because Bandit was microchipped, the staff at the clinic was able to track down Tia and Gregg. The couple was in tears when they heard that their beloved pal was found. Laura Clark, Director of the Colleton County Animal Shelter credits the happy ending to the microchip and the owners for keeping their information up to date.

Microchip Helps Owner Find Pup That Wandered Off After Storms

Springfield, MO owner lost her pet Yorkie one Sunday night after heavy storms blew her gate open. The little pup slipped through the opening and wandered off. Although Lora quickly posted on a local Lost and Found page, no one had any information about little Chanel.
A week after the dreadful night, Lora received a text message from the microchip company telling her that Chanel had been located. The person who found her brought her to a local veterinarian for a checkup. Upon scanning for ID, the doctor discovered the microchip and was able to initiate the joy-filled reunion.

Final Thoughts

dog microchip final thoughts
We want to believe losing a beloved furbaby would never happen to us. But if the unthinkable does occur, we can increase our chances of bringing Fido home by being proactive. The potential benefits of microchipping your pup far outweigh the risks. Add this measure to other identification for your pal’s safety and your peace of mind.
Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

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