7.6 million companion animals enter shelters every year.  3.6 million of those are dogs and cats. Only 649,000 animals who enter shelters as strays are reunited with their owners. Of those returned home, 542,000 are dogs. Only 100,000 are cats. (ASPCA) That’s only about 8% of animals entering shelters each year being reunited with their owners.

Of those companion animals not reunited with their owners, some are not wearing identification. Some never had collars in the first place, others lost their collars while they were stranded and left not knowing how to return home.

Microchip implants are solution that is painless (or nearly so), cheap, and permanent. Microchips, paired with collar ID tags, are the most effective identification a dog or cat can have if they wander to the local animal shelter.

A microchip is no bigger than a grain of rice and can be safely and easily implanted just under the skin in many pets, beyond just dogs and cats. Ask your veterinarian if your rabbit, iguana, or bird is a candidate. The tiny radio-frequency identification transponder is coded with a unique identifier, which is a string of numbers and letters that is scanned by a device that then leads users to a database that contains owner and pet information. This information includes owner name and contact information, as well as your pets name and oftentimes, a photo. Many databases also include any important health information that someone who finds your companion may need to know—allergies, medications, or other important information.

The microchip is solely an identification device used to retrieve the owner’s contact information—it is not a tracking device. The unique ID number held by the chip can be read by virtually any scanner that nearly every veterinarian and animal shelter in the U.S. will have. While there are a variety of U.S. pet microchip manufacturers, nearly every scanner is universal, and will be able to read any microchip by any manufacturer. If you travel outside of the U.S. however, your pet will likely need a new microchip as foreign scanners will likely not read U.S. microchips.

One microchip is all your pet will need over the course of his life. Microchips don’t expire or wear down—once implanted, it’s a permanent form of pet ID. Do not microchip your pet again—multiple chips may interfere with accurate scans to get the number that will eventually bring your pet back home.

Once your pet is microchipped, you’ll be able to log onto the database and enter all of this information, as well as a backup contact person. If you move or change phone numbers, or if your backup contact person does, be sure to update your information. One of the most frustrating parts of working at a shelter is almost reuniting a pet with their owner, if it wasn’t for outdated contact information. You can login to whatever database you choose as often as you’d like to update your and your pet’s information.

Many databases will correlate directly to the manufacturer of the microchip your pet has received. Registration is often free, but there can be a small initial annual fee. You might also come across optional fees through the microchip database for additional services, such as alerting local shelters and veterinarians that your pet is lost, in the event it does happen. The initial implantation, which is similar to a vaccine it that it’s inserted via a needle, is often not a big pet expense. Though it varies by clinic or shelter, prices are often in the $25-$60 range. Keep in mind the cost of losing your pet when deciding if a microchip if right for your family.

By Rachel Leisemann Immel

Fluffs of Luv Pet Care offers an array of customized pet care services, including in home pet sitting, dog walking, cat only pet sitting, overnight visits and cat and dog grooming and more. As the most reputable pet sitters and dog walkers in Charlotte and the surrounding area, Fluffs of Luv has put countless clients at ease by caring for their cherished companions while they were away.  Give Fluffs of Luv a call for a free in home consultation for pet care or to set up a grooming appointment 704-421-3492 or visit www.fluffsofluv.com.