Microchip Monday: How to Talk to Your Vet About Microchips

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Animal lovers often ask us, “How can I help lost pets in my area?” For the average pet owner, carrying around a universal microchip scanner and humane cat trap to wrangle strays simply isn’t realistic, but there are still several actions you can take to protect your community’s pets. One of the simplest ways to help is by empowering your local animal experts to get lost pets home quickly. Talking to your veterinarian about microchips is an easy way to save lives and reunite pets with their families. Give it a try on your next vet visit!

Veterinarian scanning a cat for a microchip

Here are five questions you can ask your vet today:

1)      Is every pet that comes in scanned for a microchip?

Microchips only work when humane organizations actually scan for them. Most vets scan every pet that comes through the doors, but those that do not may be missing opportunities to get lost pets home. Good Samaritans who find pets sometimes do not realize they are lost; as such, they may not think to have the pet scanned for a chip (they must not have read our six tips to get lost pets home!). However, if they try to help by “adopting” the stray that shows up on their doorstep, the next step will often be to have the pet vaccinated and spayed or neutered. That vet visit could lead to the pet getting scanned and result in a happy reunion. (If the pet doesn’t have a microchip, it’s also a chance for the vet to start a conversation about why microchipping is important – a great way add value to clients!)

2)      Are all microchip scanners in the facility universal?

Because U.S. pets can carry any of three microchip types, it is important that shelters and vets use only true universal scanners that can pick up all three frequency types. Your vet should know whether the facility’s scanners can read all three types of microchip, but if s/he is not sure, Found Animals can provide a test kit for free. (A very general rule of thumb is to look at the color of the scanner: white, green, and grayish scanners tend to be universal models; other colors almost always are not universal. If the scanner is tiny – smaller than the size of your hand – that’s another sign that it may not be pulling its weight.) Because chip companies often change the hardware inside of a scanner without updating the outside casing, it’s always better to be safe and reconfirm. Vets with questions can email Found Animals for more information or to order a free test kit. Want to make your vet’s day? You can also donate a universal scanner to an organization in need.

Common Microchip Scanner Matrix

3)      Are microchips I.S.O. compliant and AAHA-traceable?

Although three different microchip frequencies are in common use, all pet chips are not created equal. 15 digit microchip numbers indicate that your vet is implanting I.S.O. compliant, 134.2kHz microchips, which is great news! This means that your pets will be able to travel internationally without being double-chipped. It also contributes to much-needed standardization in the U.S. microchip industry. 9 and 10 digit microchip numbers do not comply with the international standards. They will still work inside the United States, but are not accepted (or even readable by scanners) in most parts of the world.

Whether the microchip can be traced through AAHA’s free universal microchip lookup tool actually depends on the registry, not the microchip itself. Most major chip companies allow the American Animal Hospital Association’s website to query their database and determine whether a given microchip is registered. No personal information is visible from this service, but it saves tremendous time for shelters and vets, as they know immediately which registry contains the owner contact information they need. The service is completely free. That being said, some registries still choose not to participate (two examples of non-participating companies include Avid and 24PetWatch). For the best possible protection, vets should ensure their microchip company’s database syncs with AAHA. Vets can check for their chip supplier’s name in this list of participating registries.

4)      Are microchips registered immediately after implantation?

Every day that a microchip stays unregistered is a day the pet goes unprotected. Many pet owners do not fully understand how microchips work, and as such, putting registration off until the pet gets home can be a recipe for disaster. Savvy vets will help clients register as soon as a microchip is implanted, either by helping them fill out and mail in the forms (yes, some registries still make you mail things in), or by walking clients through online microchip registration. If the microchip company charges a fee to register information, vets should ensure that fee is bundled with the implantation fee, so that everything is paid for, completed, and confirmed before the pet leaves the office. Found Animals provides free registration for all U.S. pets, and can even accept automated uploads from vets’ medical software. We also allow pet owners to add a veterinary contact in the microchip registration for added protection. If a pet is found, we’ll notify the vet in addition to the owner and emergency contacts.

5)      Are microchip registrations updated at annual check-ups?
An outdated microchip registration provides incorrect information to animal care agencies that find a pet, gives pet owners a false sense of security, and can be worse than no microchip at all (for a real-life example, check out Cassie’s account of how her cats got lost with outdated microchip registrations). With all the stress of moving – renting a van, packing and unpacking boxes, trying to re-match pairs of socks – it can be tricky to remember the little things like updating your pet’s microchip registration. A little reminder from the vet goes a long way. The best vets check clients’ microchip registrations at every visit and help keep all contact information updated.

If your vet is not yet offering microchips to all pets, the Found Animals Registry can provide him/her with low-cost microchips and universal scanners. We have also created a simple video guide to show how fast and easy microchipping can be.

Have you talked to your vet about microchips? Leave a comment below!

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