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We live in a world of continuous advancement–where a microchip can store more power than a room full of computers even ten years prior–so the prospect of injecting our pets with a little computer can seem a little disturbing. "Can this chip be used to follow me around?" one might ask.
But the realities of not marking our pets with microchips may be too heartbreaking to deal with. Pets are lost all the time, and microchips may be the solution to finding our dear furry family members.
What Is the Microchip?
Microchip is one of those words that bring to mind nightmarish visuals from The Matrix or The Terminator, but the reality is simple.
The chip–the size of a grain of rice–is a radio-frequency identification (RFID) device. It is injected under an animal's skin, and in no way harms the creature. When someone runs a scanner over your pet's body, it can register the chip. Each chip comes with a unique identification number that identifies the pet as your own.
Once given the identification number, the person scanning your pet can run the number through a database to find the pet owner's contact information, including phone number, email, and house address.
So, no, this chip won't give your animal cancer, nor will it turn your dog into a cybernetic kill-bot.
How Is the Chip Inserted?
Many people may have a visual of some surgical procedure to place the chip inside the pet. While this may have once been a reality, the current procedure is far simpler.
A vet or pet store clerk will inject the chip under your pet's skin using a hyper-dermic needle. The process is incredibly simple, and often is done before the animal even notices something is amiss. It is no more painful than a normal injection.
The price for this service varies. Vetco charges about fifteen dollars for the service, and many vets may offer competitive rates for their services. Some places do it for free.
Once the chip is injected, the animal starts to heal. After twenty-four hours, the animal's tissue will bond to and around the chip, keeping it secure under their flesh. It is advised that you let your dog heal before grooming or washing your dog, as you may inadvertently damage either the chip or your animal by doing so.
After that, however, your pet should be fine. No extra maintenance is required once the chip is in.
Although dogs and cats are most commonly injected, the chip can be inserted into any pet that has the potential of wandering away. Farmers have been using it more frequently to keep track of their livestock and horses.
Once your animal is identified, you will need to register your personal information so that, should your dog be identified, the identifier will know who to contact. The person who injects your pet should supply information correlating where to register.
You may fear that, with so many different registries, it may be possible that your animal may fall between the cracks. What if your pet's identifier fails to search the right registry?
Fear not. By searching for your pet's identification number, they will be led to the registry database, and your pet will be safe. Just make sure your information is up-to-date.
How Will This Protect My Pet?
Let's imagine that every pet owner's fear happens: your pet runs away. Or gets lost. You try to find him or her, but, ultimately, nothing turns out.
In the past, you would either go to the local pound or put up posters looking for your poor animal. Now, however, if animal control, the police, or anyone finds your animal, they can scan your animal.
First, they will check your pet for the little chip. Usually, just by rubbing the dog over it can be found. Once discovered, a universal scanner can register the chip, and find the identification code.
From there, they will contact you to assure you that your pet is safe and sound.
Ohio State University's Department of Preventative Veterinary Medicine found that out of 53 animal shelters, 73% managed to reunite chipped animals with their families.
Should the worst happen, don't you want to know that your beloved pet can find its way home?