Dr. Jan Ciganek Answers Commonly Asked Questions about Microchipping

Prepared by the Staff of the Larchmont Animal Clinic (Part 1 of 2)

A common service provided by veterinarians, microchipping involves implanting a small electronic microchip into pets. When scanned, the device provides an identification number that may be used to determine the animal’s owner and home address. Microchipping represents one of the many services we provide here at the Larchmont Animal Clinic in Los Angeles. Clinic owner Dr. Jan Ciganek provides the following information about the process of outfitting a dog or cat with a microchip.

Q: What does the microchip look like?

A: About the size of a grain of white rice, animal microchips consist of a piece of electronic hardware encased in a glass cylinder. The microchip only activates when a specially designed scanner passes over it, so it does not require batteries. It transmits information to the scanner via radio waves. 

Q: How does a veterinarian implant the microchip, and does the procedure hurt the animal?

A: We inject the chip under the cat’s or dog’s skin with a hypodermic needle. The short procedure feels just like a normal injection, though we use a slightly larger needle. We can perform a microchipping during a routine visit to the veterinary office or in conjunction with more complex treatments like neutering or spaying. 

Q: What information does the microchip store?

A: Current microchips contain identification numbers, which may only be accessed by scanning devices that operate on the same radio wave frequency. This technology does not allow you to track your dog or cat like a GPS device; rather, if they turn up lost at an animal center or vet’s office, the staff can retrieve their ID number and search for it in an online database.

Q: What kind of information does the database contain, and how do I input that information?

A: Your veterinarian should be able to provide you with information on how and where to list information about your pet. Currently, each microchip manufacturer maintains its own database available online or accessible by telephone. The databases typically contain information such as the name of the pet’s owner and their home address, though some store the dog’s or cat’s medical history as well.

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