August 15th is National Check the Chip Day! Created by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) with support from HomeAgain, Check the Chip Day is meant to be a yearly reminder to have your pet's microchip checked to make sure it's working and to keep the contact information associated with it up to date.
Q: What is a microchip?
A: A microchip is a small, electronic chip enclosed in a glass cylinder about the size of a grain of rice. It is injected under the skin using a hypodermic needle. It is no more painful than a typical injection and no surgery or anesthesia is required—a microchip can be implanted during a routine veterinary office visit. The microchip is activated when a scanner is passed over the area. The chip transmits the manufacturer and identification number to the scanner, which displays the number on the screen.
Q: What kind of information is contained in the microchip?
A: The microchips currently used in pets contain only identification numbers. The microchip is not a GPS device and cannot track a lost pet or store medical information.
Q: How does a microchip help reunite a lost animal with its owner?
A: When an animal is found and taken to a shelter or veterinary clinic, one of the first things they do is scan the animal for a microchip. If a microchip is found and the microchip registry has accurate information, the animal's owner can quickly be contacted. The only information contained in the database is the information you choose to provide when you register or update the chip. There are protections in place to prevent unauthorized access to an owner's identification.
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Q: What does "microchip frequency" and “ISO standard” refer to?
A: The frequency of a microchip actually refers to the frequency of the radio wave produced by the scanner that activates and reads the microchip. Examples of microchip frequencies used in the U.S. include 125 Kilohertz (kHz), 128 kHz, and 134.2 kHz. The ISO standard frequency is 134.2 kHz and refers to the International Standards Organization recommended global standard intended to create a consistent worldwide identification system. Europe uses primarily 134.2 kHz chips.
Q: Why does microchip frequency matter?
A: Some scanners, known as “forward reading” are only able to detect 134.2 kHz chips. Universal or “forward and backward reading” scanners are able to detect all 3 commonly used frequencies.
Q: Is there one central database that registers the information and makes it available to animal shelters and veterinary clinics in case my pet is lost or stolen?
A: There is no central database in the U.S. for registering microchips; each manufacturer maintains its own database. In 2009, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) launched their Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool (www.petmicrochiplookup.org), which provides a listing of the manufacturer with which the microchip's code is associated and may provide the name of a participating registry. A number of free microchip registries exist, however many are not linked to the manufacturers' databases. Fortunately, some of these registries are integrated into the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool. The AAHA database does not provide owner information for the microchip – the user must contact the manufacturer/database associated with that microchip.
Q: I want to get my animal(s) microchipped. Where do I go?
A: To your veterinarian, of course! Ann Arbor Animal Hospital uses the PetLink database and Datamars microchip with the ISO recommended frequency to make scanning and international travel as easy as possible. Once your pet is microchipped, there are only three things you need to do: 1) make sure the microchip is registered; 2) ask your veterinarian to scan your pet's microchip at least once per year to make sure the microchip is still functioning and can be detected; and 3) keep your registration information up-to-date.
Remember, having the microchip placed is only the first step. The microchip must be registered in order to give you the best chance of getting your pet back. If that information is missing or incorrect, your chances of getting your pet back are dramatically reduced. Additionally, any database with which you register your pet's microchip needs to be regularly updated, and the critical database to keep up-to-date is the one maintained by the microchip manufacturer.