Microchipping: What is it?

All cats and dogs adopted from the SPCA of Hancock County are microchipped before going home. What is microchipping? And how is it helpful to your pet?

First, we always point out what a microchip is not. It is not a GPS – it does not tell you where your pet is located. It is also not visible – people who see your pet roaming at large won’t know that they are microchipped just by looking. (Many people print “I am microchipped” on their pet’s ID tag, however.) 

So what is it? It’s a tiny capsule containing an RFID transponder that has a unique number. When the capsule is scanned with the correct kind of scanner (any veterinary office or animal shelter should have one of these), the scanner is able to read this number. If you have registered your pet’s microchip, then your contact information is linked to your pet’s microchip number in an online database.

What comes with a microchip: implanting syringe, stickers with the chip’s unique number, an ID tag for your pet’s collar, and the chip itself (contained inside the needle, which has a safety cap in this image).

The chip is tiny. It’s implanted under the skin with a needle, which takes about as much time as a vaccination. Typically they are placed in the “scruff” area, which is an area with plenty of loose skin over your pet’s shoulder blades. The surface of the capsule has a coating that encourages it to stick in the fat layer immediately under the skin so that it stays in the same place. Occasionally chips will move over time, so it’s important that shelters and vets scan the whole animal when checking for a chip.

The chip itself, pictured with the implantation needle. Standard size staples included for size reference.

Microchipping is very safe when done correctly. Occasionally there will be a small amount of bleeding immediately after the implantation, but this should stop within a few minutes and is not cause for alarm. Bleeding is more likely to occur in dogs than in cats.

This is what happens when your microchipped pet gets loose and then is found by someone: if they do the right thing, and take your pet to a veterinary office or animal shelter, someone will scan your pet with a microchip scanner. They’ll record the number and look it up online to see which database that number is registered with, and call the company. If your pet’s microchip is registered, you’ll then get a call from the microchip database letting you know where your pet is located so that you can retrieve them.

Microchip scanner. There are several types; those that read all standard microchip frequencies are called “universal scanners.”

We scan all animals that arrive at the SPCA of Hancock County to check for a microchip. Although microchipping is becoming more widespread, there are still many pets who are not chipped. In addition to microchipping all cats and dogs available for adoption, we offer low-cost microchipping for community members. You can also ask your veterinarian to microchip your pet, which has a higher cost – although it can be done easily at their yearly check-up.

If you would like to have your animal(s) microchipped for a low cost at the SPCA HC, please call to make an appointment. We have several staff members who are experienced at microchipping, and we are glad to help you keep your animal safe with this simple step!