Pros and Cons of Microchipping a Dog

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Pet microchipping is an increasingly common method of animal identification that could assist you in reuniting with your dog.

A person patting a small white stray dog

Although it may seem helpful, many owners understandably have reservations about putting a chip in their pet's body.

No matter how slight a medical procedure may seem, every decision has its pros and cons.

We have listed some of the advantages and disadvantages of microchipping your dog below in order to help you make an informed decision.

The Advantages of Microchipping Your Dog

There are plenty of pros to microchipping your dog, but let's start with the main advantage, and the reason microchips are used for dogs and other animals.

  • Identifying Lost Animals

A microchip is a permanent ID that helps shelters or clinics identify a lost animal, such as a dog or cat.

The microchip contains a unique number personalized to your dog. When you register the microchip with a database, it allows whoever scans the microchip, usually a Vet or Shelter, to contact you.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, in a study of over 7,000 stray animals, dogs who did not have a microchip were returned only 21.9% of the time.

On the other hand, strays with a microchip were reunited with their owners more than half of the time.

For the dogs with microchips that could not be returned, it was usually the result of an error in the owner's information or a lack of registration entirely.

Microchipping your dog also reduces euthanasia, which, while unfortunate, is often done in instances where pets go unclaimed, and shelters are at capacity.

The expense of caring for animals in shelters is enormous.

Identifying lost animals through microchipping is an easier and faster way for the shelters to get these pups back to their loved ones.

  • It's Permanent

There are several ways to ID your dog, but microchipping is one of the most efficient and reliable ways to ensure your dog can be linked back to you if found.

In addition, unlike many other identification methods for your dogs, a microchip is a permanent solution.

Collars and dog tags can be easily lost or torn off if your dog is able to get out of your home or yard and run away.

Other methods, like tattoos, are considered a permanent solution, but they can blur or fade with time.

Tattoos can also be concealed by the dog's fur and might be hard to locate, especially if you have a dog like a Shih Tzu with a double coat.

Using tattoos as an identification method requires your dog to be put under general anesthesia, whereas microchips do not.

Ear notching is another method of identification that, while usually done on feral cats, can also be seen on dogs.

Microchipping takes the cake as the best way to identify your dog.

Still, it's a good idea always to have a backup form of identification like a good ole dog collar with a tag.

There's always a chance that if they get lost, the first person who finds them will be able to give you a call!

  • You Won't Have to Replace It (In the United States)

Pet microchips are designed to last up to 25 years, so they should be functional for your pet's life span.

The chip consists of a material that enables it to remain intact and resists breaking down.

Also, there won't be anything to replace because the microchip does not have batteries, nor does it require any power to operate.

If you live in the United States and are planning to visit or move to a different country, keep in mind that most other countries, including Europe and parts of Asia, use a different frequency microchip than most brands located in the States.

This doesn't mean there aren't any of these same frequency chips in the U.S., but unlike other counties, there isn't one frequency that is mandated in the United States.

  • No Batteries Needed

Does not require batteries or charging: Unlike GPS trackers, microchips do not rely on batteries or charging in order to work – they will last your pet their entire life!

  • Personal Information Not on Display

Unlike collars and tags, your personal information is not on display.

While putting your address on your dog's tag may seem like a good idea, we don't recommend it.

Having your information get into the wrong hands is a big concern for many people.

Microchips keep your information protected and only accessed by professionals, such as those in vet clinics and animal shelters.

  • The Microchip is Harder to Remove and May Deter Thieves

Removing a microchip from an animal will not be easily accomplished without surgical intervention.

Pet microchips are designed to stay in your dog permanently.

In addition, it is tiny and embedded under your dog's skin, so removing it from an animal is challenging.

While it may be hard to imagine that someone might want to take your dog, it can and does happen.

If someone is looking to take your dog, they merely have to remove the collar from their neck.

But if that someone knows your dog has a microchip, it may discourage them from taking your beloved pup.

When you have your dog implanted with a microchip, your vet may give you a tag that states that they have a chip.

However, if not, there are also options for you to buy one online after the procedure that looks good with your dog's other important tags.

  • It Doesn't Require Anesthesia

Unlike some other medical procedures, microchipping does not require anesthesia, so it carries a lower risk of complications for your pet.

  • Mostly a Painless Procedure

Rightfully so, many dog owners are concerned about the pain that is associated with microchipping.

Fortunately, the procedure is relatively painless and shouldn't hurt more than a routine vaccination.

The microchip is inserted between your animal's shoulder blades and can be over and done within two minutes.

Your dog may experience some discomfort, especially if they do not like to stay still, but overall, they should be fine.

Cons to Microchipping Dogs

Like most things in life, there is always a downside. Unfortunately, nothing is ever foolproof, and this goes with microchipping as well.

So here are some disadvantages to microchipping your dog.

  • They Require Upkeep

In order for a microchip to work properly, it must be registered with a pet recovery service and the information must be kept up to date (i.e., you must notify the service of any changes in your contact information).

If you don't do these things, the microchip will essentially be worthless should your pet ever become lost or stolen

  • Not All Chip Readers Are Universal

Some microchips can only be read using specific scanners; the older the chip is, the more likely it is to run into this issue.

However, this can be a deterrence because if your pup goes missing, most veterinarian clinics and shelters only have one scanner.

This means there is a possibility they won't be able to get access to your dog's microchip.

Microchip scanners can also be very expensive, so the likelihood of a shelter like a local humane society having multiple scanners is small.

  • Microchip Migration

While it is not common, there are some cases where a chip can travel from the place initially inserted to somewhere else in the body (called subcutaneous migration).

If someone comes across your lost dog and has it scanned for a microchip, they may miss the chip if they only scan between the shoulder blades.

Also, if your dog has loose skin, this may increase the likelihood of it occurring.

Should the microchip not be implanted deeply enough, it won't be able to attach itself to tissue and remain just at the surface level of the skin.

This is why it is essential that veterinary professionals be the ones to insert a microchip to reduce the risk of migration.

  • Potential Health Risk

Implanting a microchip can cause inflammation to occur at the point of entry.

While this is often minor, some have concerns about the risk of developing cancer due to microchips.

While there is not enough research to show that microchips cause cancer, it is not entirely correct to say it doesn't.

According to the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, a review of the existing evidence showed that the probability of a tumor growing at the place of implantation is extremely small.

Still, it is not possible for them to say that it will never happen.

  • Risk of Infection

One of the risks associated with microchipping your dog is the potential for infection at the injection site.

This risk can be minimized by making sure that the person who implants the chip uses sterile equipment and techniques.

  • Allergic Reactions

Another possible complication of microchipping is an allergic reaction to the materials used in the chip itself or to the needle used for implantation.

These reactions are usually mild and can be treated with antihistamines or other medications, but in rare cases, they can be more severe.

  • Microchips Are Not GPS Trackers

Another con to microchipping your dogs is that they will not tell you the exact location of your dog.

This can be a letdown for those worried dog owners who are eager to get their beloved home.

Microchips can tell you if your dog has been in a clinic or shelter if they have scanned the microchip, but if your dog gets lost in the woods, there is no way for you to know that by having the chip.

The Bottom Line

Like with most things in life, microchips have pros and cons.

One of the main advantages of getting your dog microchipped is that it will increase the chance they will be found if they become lost.

Embedded microchips can protect your personal information from public view and deter people from taking your dog.

The downside the microchipping is that, in some cases, your dog's chip can move and possibly avoid detection. Also, the clinic that comes across your dog may not have a scanning device compatible with your dog's chip.

Finally, Microchipping does not always mean your dog will be reunited with you.

There have been cases where dogs have been euthanized even after a chip has been located.

This oversight goes beyond your decision as an owner, and you are not at fault if this occurs.

Deciding whether you should microchip your dog is a personal decision only you can make.

However, we always suggest that you have a conversation with your pet's veterinarian to move forward with the best possible course of action.

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