Every responsible pet owner knows that pet microchipping is a great way of protecting the security of their pet, and microchipping is now performed on a wide range of animals, from the standard dogs and cats to horses and even pets like tortoises!Microchipping can help to ensure that your pet makes it back home safely if they are lost, prove ownership if they are stolen, reduce the cost of your pet insurance and help to ensure that if your pet becomes injured outside of the home, any vet that your pet is taken to can get in touch with you promptly. In fact, from April 2016 onwards, microchipping will become compulsory for all dogs in England and Wales; so there has never been a better time to get your pet microchipped and help to safeguard them against a range of potential future scenarios.However, while microchipping has a lot to recommend it and all pet owners should consider having their pets microchipped as standard, it is important to understand the limitations of microchipping and do what you can to protect your pet against them. Here are some of the main limitations and potential issues that can arise with microchipping that every pet owner should understand.
In any dispute over the ownership of a pet, microchipping records can form a vital tool in establishing proof of ownership and discerning the rightful owner of any pet. So it is important to get your pet microchipped at the earliest available opportunity, so that you can be legally registered on the microchipping database as the original owner of your pet. Imagine if your pet was stolen while not microchipped and the thief or a person they later sell your pet on to is the first to have them microchipped; you would find it a lot harder to prove your original ownership if your pet was first registered with a microchipping company by somebody else.
Enabling your pet to be returned to you promptly if they get lost or stray relies upon the information that the microchipping database holds about you being relevant and up to date. You may be sitting anxiously by the phone hoping for a call to let you know that your missing pet has been found; but are you sure that the microchipping company has your current phone number? Remember to advise the microchipping company promptly if you move house or your contact details change, so that you can be contacted quickly if needs be.
Most animals are microchipped under the skin at the scruff of the neck, and generally, the implanted microchip will remain in this area of your pet for the duration of their lives. However, in a small proportion of cases, microchips can migrate from the neck area to other parts of the body, meaning that a cursory pass over with the microchip scanner can miss them. Veterinarians and other people that possess microchip scanners are generally very thorough about checking the whole body of an animal for the presence of a microchip, but if they expect the chip to be in the neck region and it is not, it can be easy to miss. Ask your vet to scan your pet for their microchip any time you go for a check-up, and if it is found that the chip has migrated significantly, consider having them re-microchipped in the usual place.
Much as with the case of the occasional microchip migrating to another part of the body, a very small amount of microchips fail over time and cannot be picked up by the microchip scanner, although microchips generally last for the entire lifetime of a pet without incident. Again, ask your vet to check regularly for the presence of your pet’s chip, and that it is still readable.
In order for your microchipped pet to be reunited with you if it is lost, your pet will first need to be scanned for the microchip’s details. While vets, shelters and dog wardens scan for a chip as standard, the general public does not have access to microchip scanners as a matter of course, and may not even realise that your pet is chipped. A shy cat that suddenly appears in someone’s garden may easily be mistaken for a stray, and while it is to be hoped that pet lovers who find a stray animal would automatically get them scanned for a chip, not everyone is automatically aware of this fact.If possible, back up your pet’s microchip with a collar showing your contact details, and notating that the pet is microchipped to encourage people to take it to a facility that can have it scanned for your details.
Currently in the UK, microchipping equipment and chips are offered by several different companies and there is no centralised database containing all UK-wide pet ownership information. Each veterinary practice or other organisation that offers a microchipping service will use a different company to provide their chips, and generally, if a pet is brought into them to be scanned for a chip and a chip is found, in the first instance they will contact the company that provides their own microchips to find the owner’s details. If the company that they use did not provide the chip and so, does not hold the pet’s details, they will be able to advise as to which competing company does, and so, contact can be made with the appropriate firm.However, something that often comes as a surprise to many pet owners is that not all of the main microchipping firms within the UK operate a 24-hour helpline and advice service; some firms only provide telephone support during business hours, and no coverage at all during the night and on holidays.In a hypothetical scenario where a pet was rushed to a vet by a stranger after an accident, the first thing that the vet will do after relieving pain and providing emergency treatment will be to try and trace the contact details for the owner to find out how they wish to proceed. If, however, it is a Sunday night and there will be nobody available at the relevant microchipping company to provide support until Monday morning, how can the vet get in contact with the pet’s owner and find out how they wish to proceed? The vet may then find themselves in the position of having to make judgement calls on treatment protocols and the time, value and type of treatment that the animal receives without the owner’s input, and may have no choice but to make decisions that the owner themselves would not have chosen.To try and avoid this happening, talk to your vet before your pet is microchipped, find out what company they use to provide their microchips, and find out if the company in question provides a 24 hour phone line; if not, shop around until you find one that does.