Should I Microchip My Dog?

Each year thousands of dogs get separated from their owners and are lost and never found. Whilst we hate to be the bearer of bad news, this is just the reality for some owners and is a real risk for you and your beloved dog.

For the thousands of dogs that do get lost some dogs are found via micro-chipping technology. But what is micro-chipping technology and “should I microchip my dog“. And most importantly, how can a microchip save your dog?

In this post we examine the use of microchips for dogs and what the benefits are versus some of the issues. The obvious benefits are around being able to tag and identify your dog through the microchip but some owners worry about the technology and some of the issues like the potential risk of causing cancer as well as non-universal technologies that make them less useful.

Suite 101 helps us with this post by providing their knowledge on the issue.

Should I Microchip My Dog?

Should I Microchip My Dog?

Should I Microchip My Dog?

Microchips are an innovation that has saved thousands of pets from being rehomed or euthanized in shelters. A pet microchip is “about the size of a grain of rice,” according to microchip manufacturer 24PetWatch, and is marked with what is essentially a very small barcode that can be scanned just like the tags on grocery items. Each microchip is unique and can be used to identify a lost dog or cat even if the animal’s collar is missing.

Pet microchips are implanted just below the skin, between a dog or cat’s shoulder blades, using a tool similar to a hypodermic needle. Once it’s inserted, the chip stays there for the lifetime of the animal and can be used to identify the pet if it should be found on the street or turned in to a shelter.

If a wandering dog has an microchip, it’s easier for neighbors, veterinarians, and animal rescue groups to return the pet to the right people. Not only do shelters scan every animal they process and check chip barcodes against a pet database, a dog with an intact collar can be brought home by anyone who thinks to call the number on the microchip ID tag.

Technology Behind Microchips -  These Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips are tiny glass cylinders about the size of a grain of rice, containing a radio transmitter and a tiny computer with an identification number. When the scanner is passed over the chip it sends out a fluctuating magnetic field that is picked up by the chip’s antenna and converted into electricity which powers the computer and radio transmitter.

The identification number is sent to the radio transmitter and, from there, to the scanner where it is displayed on a screen. This number is kept in an international database which leads to the registry in which the pet’s contacts and information is kept.

Microchips, once they are inserted with a needle by the veterinarian beneath the skin over the shoulder blades, remain there for the life of the pet. They are designed to last at least 25 years.

Identification Drawbacks – Despite the thousands of lost pets who have been safely returned home, microchip technology does have some drawbacks.

According to the Humane Society of the United States website, there has not been a universal scanner since 2003. Each microchip manufacturer has its own scanner which may create a problem for rescue staff who must take the time to scan an animal multiple times. Some manufacturers provide their scanners free to shelters and clinics but those that do not, cause an added monetary expense that many rescuers cannot afford.

In the case when a pet is found by an individual who is not aware of microchipping and does not know to take the pet to a clinic or shelter for scanning or if the registry information is not kept up to date, the microchip is of no benefit. These are reasons why a collar and tags, even though they can be lost, still provide extra security for lost pets.

Medical Risks – Microchips and microchipping procedures also carry some medical risk.

Charlie Brown, a longhaired Chihuahua, hemorrhaged to death in California in February 2009, after the implantation of a microchip. Pressure bandages did not stop the bleeding and with no major blood vessels in that area and the absence of a congenital clotting problem, the bleeding remains a mystery.

Other dangers include the misplacement of a chip in a struggling animal causing death or paralysis, and chips migrating within the pet’s body causing abscesses and infection. Cancer has also been linked to microchip use. Several cases of dogs developing tumors around or near the implant have been reported.

Do Microchips Cause Cancer – Microchip manufacturers claim the chips are completely inert. Although the chips use radio frequencies to signal their ID number to a microchip reader, they have no internal energy source and have been designed with a biocompatible casing that does not cause allergic reactions once it’s been inserted.

Despite these precautions, according to How Stuff Works writer Jane McGrath, a 2001 study found that 1% of rats with implanted microchips developed cancerous tumors near the chip. At least a dozen animal studies have been done between 1990 and 2007, most of which concluded that microchips significantly increase the risk of cancer at a site near the chip.

Most of these studies have been done on rodents, however, which prompts manufacturers to point out that research results cannot necessarily be correlated across species. 24PetWatch rebuts the worries over cat and dog cancers by concluding, “no evidence has been found that in any way demonstrates the existence of a correlation between microchip implantation and incidence of cancer in cats and dogs.”

Is the Cancer Risk a Reasonable Cost for Microchipping? Although there is cause for concern, the studies that demonstrate a link between microchipping and cancer really aren’t conclusive, for several reasons:

  • The studies were mostly conducted on mice and rats
  • In cases where animals developed tumors at the site of implantation, there were usually vaccines administered in the same area
  • Trauma and inflammation at the site where the microchip is implanted could be responsible for tumor development, rather than anything inherent to the microchip

Microchips are a very useful innovation and has been responsible for reuniting thousands of small dogs to their owners each and every year all around the world. They make the identification of your beloved dog much easier and as such, they also save the lives of many dogs from being euthanized in shelters before their owners can locate and rescue them.

But in answering the question “should I microchip my dog“, there are no easy answers and it is not an simple decision. In deciding whether or not to implant a microchip on your dog it really comes down to preference and is a personal choice. You need to weigh the risk of losing your beloved dog and not being able to find them with the chances of medical error or longer term cancer. Of course there are some technological drawbacks we discussed as well.

If this post has made you aware that micro chipping is available for your dog as well as the pros and cons of using one, please click “Like” below.

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