Dr. Jan Ciganek Answers Commonly Asked Questions about Microchipping

Prepared by the Staff of the Larchmont Animal Clinic (Part 2 of 2)

Microchipping technology currently plays an invaluable role in animal research and pet safety. Used by animal shelters, veterinarians, kennels, humane societies, pet stores, and similar organizations, microchips allow for the identification and return of lost animals. In part two of this dual-part primer on microchipping, Dr. Jan Ciganek, owner of the Los Angeles-based Larchmont Animal Clinic, discusses some of pet owners’ common concerns and inquiries about the technology.

Q: How is my microchipped pet returned to me if I lose it?

A: One of the first routine actions that animal shelter or veterinary clinic staff members take when they find a stray pet is to scan the animal for a microchip. Once they retrieve the chip’s ID number, they may access the manufacturer’s registry and determine the animal’s owner. However, this process only works if the pet’s owner updates the microchip registry or database with their current information.

Q: Do I stand a better chance of retrieving my lost pet if it contains a microchip than if it only has an identification tag?

A: Research data seems to suggest so. A study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2009 examined the recovery rate of some 7,700 stray animals found in animal shelters. Researchers reported that non-microchipped dogs and cats were returned to their owners 21.9 percent and 1.8 percent of the time, respectively. Conversely, microchipped dogs and cats were reunited with their owners 52.2 percent and 38.5 percent of the time, respectively. 

Q: Why were some of the microchipped pets not returned? How effective is the scanning technology in picking up microchips?

A: According to the same study, the two most common reasons microchipped dogs and cats were not recovered were that owners did not update their microchip registry information or they failed to enter any information at all into the databases. On very rare occasions, technology or human errors lead to a failure in identifying the pet’s microchip. These situations occur only infrequently, however, and new technologies in microchipping should reduce the incidence of these mistakes.

Q: If I microchip my dog or cat, do I still need to give it identification and rabies tags?

A: While a microchip works as a permanent, tamper-proof form of ID, it in no way replaces up-to-date identification and rabies tags. Rabies tags in particular should be attached to the collars of dogs and cats, showing other people that the animal has received the latest vaccinations.

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