Microchip Monday: To Re-Chip, or Not to Re-Chip?

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Have you ever been told that your pet’s microchip no longer works, or cannot be picked up by a scanner?  Perhaps someone claimed it was an “international microchip” that won’t be read in the United States.  Or, maybe your pet’s microchip has migrated from the shoulders to another part of the body.  If so, you’ve probably asked yourself a common question: Does my pet need a second microchip?

People often email us asking whether they should re-chip their pets, and we always give the same answer: it depends.  A microchip is usually good for the life of the pet.  It does not wear out or turn off.  So, in the vast majority of cases, the chip should never need to be replaced.  Of course, there is an exception to every rule.  There are good reasons and bad reasons to implant a second microchip in your pet. Here are some common reasons we hear for considering a second microchip:

  1. Owner is moving out of the country and needs an “international chip”
  2. Microchip has migrated, is no longer working, or has fallen out
  3. Microchip type is unreadable in the U.S. or is an “international chip”
  4. Microchip company no longer exists, is too expensive, or is downright rude
  5. Microchip is registered to someone else and the owner can’t update it
  6. Microchips are awesome!

Okay, so I made up that last one. But seriously, the first five we hear all the time.

Now, I’m going to say something crazy here, but bear with me: if you are reading this because of reason 1 or 2, you may have a case for implanting a new microchip.  If your reason falls any later in the list, you may have second thoughts once you read on.  Really.  I’m sure not everyone will agree, but here at Found Animals, we run across a lot of microchip misconceptions.  Much of the rationale behind numbers 3-5 can be traced to these points of confusion. (Reason 6 is absolutely true, but thankfully no one seems to re-chip because of it.) We can break this list into three categories: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.  Scroll down to see where your reason ranks.

Good Reasons to Re-Chip:

1. Owner is moving out of the country and needs an international chip

As you may recall from our “5 Things You Didn’t Know About Microchips” blog, many countries require a 15-digit, 134.2kHz ISO standard chip.  It’s not really accurate to call it an “international chip,” because we have plenty of them in the U.S., too.  We just don’t mandate it.  Check animal codes in the destination country to see if “ISO 11784” or “ISO 11785” compliant pet microchips are required. Remember, just knowing the chip company is not enough to tell whether your existing chip is compliant. Look to length – if the microchip number is less than 15 digits, the microchip is not ISO standard. Re-chip away. (Not traveling after all? Your 9 or 10 digit microchip will still work just fine here in the States.)

pitbull wearing red beret

ISO, s’il vous plaît

 2. Microchip has migrated, is no longer working, or has fallen out

Microchip migration is actually very rare.  A major BSAVA microchip study examining 3.7 million pets found that true migration occurs in less than 1 out of 10,000 cases!  Microchip failure is even less common.  In the vast majority of instances where a chip is “unreadable,” a non-universal scanner is really to blame.  It’s worth perusing our microchip scanner cheat-sheet and having a talk with your vet to be sure she is scanning for all three chip frequencies before re-chipping.

If your pet’s chip is among the migrated minority, you may need to do some soul-searching and see whether a second microchip makes sense for your pet.  If animal professionals don’t scan thoroughly, your pet’s chip may be missed.  If your pet ends up with two microchips, you will need to register and update both registrations for the same reason. (I’m facing this currently with Pumpkin, whose old 9-digit chip somehow moseyed down to her elbow.  I now need to update that one and her shiny-new ISO standard chip every time I move.  Thankfully a little bird told me about a free microchip registry that accepts all chip types… pretty nifty, huh?)

Bad Reasons to Re-Chip:

3. Microchip type is unreadable in the U.S. or is an “international chip”

False! Although the United States has not yet standardized our pet microchips like most civilized nations, we have abundant ISO standard microchips here, too.  So basically, the microchip world looks like this:

microchip frequency venn diagram

 All three frequencies comingle happily in our national microchip melting-pot.  “But wait,” you may say, “If my vet/shelter/rescue’s scanners aren’t reading all frequencies, how will they find those microchips?”  They won’t.  If your organization has an outdated non-universal scanner, it will miss chips.  That means hardworking American pets with perfectly good registered microchips will not be able to make it home.  Do your part to help our country’s cats and canines by educating your community! (Even better, why not hold a pet fundraiser and donate a new universal scanner?)

4. Microchip company no longer exists, is too expensive, or is downright rude

As frustrating as our two-legged brethren in customer service can be, double-chipping won’t make the first chip disappear.  Luckily, you aren’t tied to that company.  Thanks to the AAHA’s Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool, shelters and vets can search any U.S. microchip and see exactly where it is registered.  Even if your microchip is registered with a different company than the one that originally sold it, animal care professionals will be able to find your registration immediately using this free website.  Many microchips are cross-registered anyway, so this website is really the only way to know for sure which company has pet owner contact information for a microchip.  Therefore, all shelters and vets should use this tool as the first step in getting pets home.  Use whichever registry you like.  Just make sure your registry participates in the Pet Microchip Lookup Tool*.  If not, your pet will be at the mercy of a lucky guess.

(*At time of writing, all common microchip registries participate in petmicrochiplookup.org except for Avid and 24PetWatch. A current list of AAHA’s participating companies is available on their website).

Tip: If you don’t want to update multiple registrations for the same chip, at least provide the old company with your new registry’s phone number, email, etc. – this will allow the old company to point callers toward your current registration.  The Found Animals Registry is 100% free for life, so there is no excuse to leave your pet unprotected.

orange tabby cat lying by telephone

Ugly Reason to Re-Chip:

5. Microchip is registered to someone else and the owner can’t update it

Why is this an ugly reason? First off, the microchip registration is not a good place to air grievances about a pet’s ownership or rightful home.  Believe it or not, most municipalities do not consider a microchip legal proof of ownership.  If that sounds crazy or if your microchip provider has told you otherwise, think about it this way.  Anyone can put a chip in a pet, just like anyone can put on an ID tag on a collar.  If someone really wanted to microchip and register your pet without your permission, a few seconds of distraction at the dog park or a dexterous hand through your fence would do the trick.  Really!  Even for your pet’s existing chip, there’s nothing to stop anyone from registering your number with another registry that you don’t check (many pets wear their microchip number printed right on their ID tags – no scanner needed).

For these reasons and several others, if you are experiencing an ownership dispute regarding your pet, you need to work it out legally.  Shelters want to see adoption contracts, municipal licenses, ownership release forms, and other documents proving you are the pet’s legal owner.  Be sure these things are in your hands and not someone else’s.  If you have them, updating the microchip registration is easy.  Your local animal control can help you speak with the registry.

cat and dog hugging

Can’t we all just get along?

Maybe you and the previous registrants get along just fine.  That’s great, but if they have not yet transferred the microchip registration to you, how will they respond when your pet is found?  Do they know when you move or change phone numbers?  If it’s no longer their pet, odds are they aren’t updating their info, right?  Again, even one unregistered chip can spell disaster.  Incorrectly registered microchips can be worse than no microchip at all: the shelter or vet will see old information, try to contact that owner, and assume they’ve done their best to get the pet home.  Not only will it hurt your pet’s chances of a happy reunion, it wastes precious time and resources for our shelters.  Double bummer!  Do the right thing and stick with the chip you’ve got.

Have you ever considered re-microchipping your cat or dog? How did your reason stack up? Share your story below.

21 Responses

  1. Rebecca M says:

    We are looking into rechipping. Ours has a chip from 24PetWatch that was put in place by her rescue. That company is ridiculously expensive. Because we have moved twice since we adopted her, her chip is very outdated. We are thinking about rechipping her to a better company. My other dog has a chip that can be updated for the life of it without paying a ridiculous annual fee as was our first dog. I hope to take this advice to our vet for her annual checkup and discuss our options with him.

    • Estelle W. says:

      Hi Rebecca: As long as you have your dog’s chip number, you don’t have to rechip her. In fact, doing so could do more harm than good if the dog is ever lost as the finder will not know which chip number and corresponding info is current. Chips do not become outdated, but registration information does. If you have moved twice since you adopted her, you should update your registry information. You can register her and update your information any time for free at found.org. Just get her scanned at your vet so you have her correct chip number handy, and enter it with your current info at found.org. Of course, you should also always have tags on your pets with your current phone number as that is the first place a finder will look to reunite you with your pet.

  2. theresa says:

    I recently adopted a 6 month old dog from a bad situation. The previous owners wee supposed to meet us and give us his shot records and microchip information for us to update. They never showed. So what can we do to update the info? Although unlikely he gets away from us,if he should I would not want him returned to his previous owners.

    • Estelle W. says:

      Hi Theresa: You can get your dog scanned at your vet or at a shelter and write down the microchip number. Then, you can register the microchip yourself in a free registry like found.org. An additional step would be to also contact the maker of the microchip and see if they have a separate registry where the former owners might be registered. You can try to work with that registry to change the information over to yours, but I’m not sure how easy that will be if the former owners are not cooperative. The best thing you can do in the meantime is always have your dog wear a collar and tag with your current phone number clearly legible. If your dog does get away from you, the first place a finder will look is on the dog itself. This sounds like a no-brainer but you would be surprised how many lost dogs stay lost because of no collar and ID. Collar and ID tag is an absolute must.

  3. Tim Thompson says:

    We have already asked you how we can relocate our US chipped dog to a Canada address. We have received no response from you whatsoever. Can you reply to ASAP in regards to how we can readdress the chip to a CANADIAN address?

    • Estelle W. says:

      Hi Tim: I’m sorry, I didn’t see a question from you prior to this one. If you are registered in the Found Animals Registry (https://microchipregistry.foundanimals.org/), you can log in and change the address on your account to your new address in Canada. Make sure your dog’s chip number is 15 digits long, meaning your dog was chipped with a “standard” chip which will be scannable outside the US. If you don’t know whether your dog was chipped with a standard chip, or where the chip is registered, take your dog to your vet and have him scanned with a universal scanner. Write the chip number down and look it up in the Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool here: http://www.petmicrochiplookup.org/. Depending on where your chip is registered, contact that registry to change your address. You can also register any chip in the Found Animals Registry here, https://microchipregistry.foundanimals.org/, which is free for life. If your dog is chipped with a non-standard microchip (the number is less than 15 digits), you will need to have him re-chipped with a standard microchip and register that chip in order for it to be scannable and trackable in Canada. Hope this helps!

  4. Mona says:

    My cat was stolen by one of my neighbors a few months ago before I could get him registered or chipped we finally found him and had to get him back by calling the sheriff the lady who stole him had him micro chipped with her info and will not release it how can I get this changed

    • Estelle W. says:

      Hi Mona: You will need to get your cat scanned in order to get the microchip number (you can ask your vet to do it – it should be free). Then, look up the chip number with the AAHA lookup tool at http://www.petmicrochiplookup.org/. This will tell you what registry has the chip recorded. Then, you will need to contact that registry and work out with them how to remove your neighbor’s info and register the chip with your own. Once you have the microchip number, you can also register it for free at https://microchipregistry.foundanimals.org/ (assuming your neighbor only registered her info with the chip’s individual registry). Registering at found.org is an extra layer of protection for your cat, since any microchip number can be registered there and the service is free for the life of your pet. Very importantly though, have your cat wear a collar and a tag with your current phone number on it at all times. If your cat gets out and someone finds it, that is the first place the finder will look to return your cat to you. Good luck!

  5. Jo Ella says:

    What are you waiting for? Report your dog as stolen ASAP !!

  6. Loretta says:

    I’m not sure what to say here other than this. I had my dog with a sitter as I was battling breast cancer. I went into the hospital and had both breast removed. When I got out and was able to get around I called to go make another visit with my baby. Well… long story short, she had given him away! Yes! I was so mad I could of hurt her. She refuses to tell me who she gave him to. He is fixed, utd on shots, rabies too and microchipped. I immediately started posting online, mail boxes, fences, poles, just about anywhere I could think of. I still have yet to find him and he was given away in Dec 2014. So… what makes me wonder is how someone can just change information on a microchip. I think it’s bogus and hogwash. If they can’t contact the owner then so be it but to tell someone to go online and register the dogs microchip in their name too is very wrong! If I ever find my baby and if there was ever anything like that happened, I’ll sue every company involved! No I don’t think she should register the dog online yet. She needs to make sure the owners are not looking for the dog first… I will never give up on my dog. And the lady who had him knows he is microchipped because I told her. Unless she has a friend who works at a vet, I’ll just patiently wait for the phone call….

  7. Krissy says:

    I recently got a dog from a family who adopted him. He is registered with 24PetWatch and it says on the website that the previous owners would have to sign something or other to change ownership of him. Problem is, the old owners and I didn’t keep in contact. Is there a way to change ownership at a local vet/animal shelter? I have all his paperwork and all.

    • Estelle W. says:

      Hi Krissy: The first thing I would do is get your dog scanned and find out whose name comes up in connection with the chip. I wouldn’t just take the previous owner’s word for it because they may not really know. You can get the dog scanned for free at your vet or local shelter. If the previous owner’s name does come up in the scan, see if the vet or shelter will give you their phone number so you can call the previous owner and arrange for the transfer. They may not do this for privacy reasons, but you can try. If they don’t want to give you the number, explain the situation and see if you can convince them to call on your behalf. If neither of these work, call 24PetWatch and explain the situation to them. They should be able to call the previous owners and verify your claim. Then, you might have to pay a fee in order to get the chip number transferred to you. In the meantime, get the vet or shelter to give you the chip number and register it yourself in a free registry such as https://microchipregistry.foundanimals.org/. That way, your name will also come up if the dog gets lost and scanned. Most importantly, make sure the dog is wearing a physical tag with your current phone number on it. If your dog does get lost, that is the first and best way the finder will try to contact you. Good luck – let us know what happens!

  8. Jennifer says:

    Both of my dogs were micro-chipped by the county’s humane society shelters from which they were rescued (different states) so obviously I didn’t have a choice of which micro-chip service to use. The counties both implanted chips from 24PetWatch, which I do NOT want to use because their fees are excessive ($18.95 to update new owner info) AND $18.95 annually to receive the BASIC “direct connect” service that would put me directly in contact with the person who had my dog(s) should either become lost. There is also a higher cost to use other, “premium” services that other MC companies either offer for free or charge but a lesser cost. So I REALLY want to re-chip both dogs with a different MC service. But what if either or both were scanned and only the 24PetWatch chips showed up. Then I’d be contacted by that MC company and not be put in touch with the person(s) who had my pet unless I paid the $18.95 membership fee. That’s like holding my dog for ransom until I paid the company money and I do NOT like that!!!! What do your recommend in this situation? Are the chances good that both chips would be found (I would think so if an all-over body scan was done and done properly)?

    • Estelle W. says:

      Hi Jennifer: I think the best thing to do in this instance is to make sure both your chips are registered in your name (I would go ahead and pay the applicable fee for this), and then also register both pets’ chips for free with https://microchipregistry.foundanimals.org/. I would not pay a yearly fee for a direct connect option. What I WOULD do is make sure both pets have physical tags on their collars with your current phone number. That will be the first way a good Samaritan will try to contact you if they find your pet. I would not implant a second chip. If you do that and your pet gets lost, you run the risk that the scanner picks up the first chip with the previous owner’s info and tries to connect with them first. After scanning and finding one chip, a shelter or vet is not going to be able to guess that there might be another. Also, if your pet ends up at a shelter, please realize their time and resources are limited. Even if they do pick up both chips you will be costing them valuable time trying to figure out which one is accurate. I realize you’re upset about the fee to change your info (I had to do the same thing), but as long as you’re not moving every year it is pretty nominal over the pet’s lifetime, and worth it to make sure your dogs are both identified accurately. If the fee is too excessive for your budget, give them a call and see if they will reduce it for you. They may have programs or arrangements for pet owners on a case by case basis. Thanks for writing in, and for being a responsible pet parent.

  9. barbie Hill says:

    I got a cat 2 years old from the shelter and it had a chip but the owner could not be found. They put another chip in the cat with my information and I adopted the cat. Now I went to the vet and both chips show, I am asking the shelter where we got her to void the old chip. what a mess. I do not want to lose my cat. and keep getting different information. I paid $80 for the cat and love her. just hope I can keep her.

    • Estelle W. says:

      Hi Barbie: The shelter should not have implanted a second chip in your cat. The correct thing to do would have been to change the owner information on the first chip to yours. The chip itself does not contain owner information. It contains a number that is registered in a database that corresponds with the owner. I’m not sure why the shelter wouldn’t know this. What you should do now is get your cat scanned at your vet (this is free) and have them write down the microchip numbers and manufacturers of both chips. Then, for the chip that is not registered to you, contact the manufacturing company (this can usually be done online) and have them change the owner information to you. You might have to pay a fee for this. In the meantime, you can register BOTH chip numbers at the Found Animals free microchip registry https://microchipregistry.foundanimals.org. I’m so sorry this happened to you! It makes things extra confusing, I know. Please write back in if any of this info is unclear. Thank you for being a responsible pet parent!

  10. Allison says:

    When I first got my dog (3 yrs ago) I thought I had registered her microchip, however during our last vet visit I was informed that it wasn’t- we had the vet scan her because of a conversation I had at work in regards to the chip and of a clinic that does it for a lower price. In this case, would you recommend I have her rechipped?

  11. Jo says:

    So I understand that I can cross register our chips. However, I made the mistake of having my girls chipped at Banfield. I did not realize that the chip they use is proprietary. Now that we’ve switched vets (due to VERY poor treatment at Banfield), they will NOT allow me to update the information attached to my girls’ chips with a good phone number and address. This is especially important because we are moving out of state in May. Even though I can cross-register, I am being told by other registries that I can only update the information with the maker of the chip. Since Banfield will not allow me to do so, is this not a good reason to rechip? After all, what good is having a microchip if the associated owner information is of no use?

    • Annie M says:

      Hi Jo,
      I’m not sure what you mean by the Banfield chip being proprietary? You can definitely update information with any registry, even if it’s not the manufacturer’s registry, even if Banfield says you can’t. Some may charge a fee to update information, but they should never refuse to allow you to update your information. Banfield microchips are manufactured by Datamars, which is the most popular manufacturer. You can call 877-567-8738 to register/update with them. We recommend not rechipping your pet, because if you keep the old chip registered under old information, there’s no guaranteeing which chip the shelter will pick up first. If you do decide to re-chip, you should still keep both chips registered and updated. I hope this helps, if you have any more questions you can contact our microchip team direct at customerservice@found.org. Thank you!

  12. lisa stetson says:

    I am writing to you because a little girl found this male dog in our apartment complex she told me he was be abused from other kids. I was unable to locate the owner. The dog doesn’t have tags and not sure if he has a chip . There is no number to call to find out where the owner is he has been in my home for the night. I do have concerns about his eatting i have dog food but he wont eat. If you could please call me at 239-745-9472

    • Annie M says:

      Hi Lisa, You can take him to any vet or animal shelter and they can scan him for a microchip (for free.) Poor thing, it is not uncommon for dogs not to eat if feeling anxious which he may well be. Very glad you have him so he can’t be abused, how terrible! Feel free to keep us posted but 1st step is to check for a microchip. Thanks for taking him in!