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Vet Speak: Look after your pets by getting them microchipped

By Alison Laurie-Chalmers

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Microchipping can help to keep your pets safe.
Microchipping can help to keep your pets safe.

Keeping our pet’s safe is important to all of us as pet owners. Our beloved pets rely completely on ourselves, as their owners, for all their care and protection, and microchipping them is certainly one way of helping to keep them safe.

Having a pet go missing is a situation that no owner wants to be faced with. Microchipping is an easy procedure, like an injection between the shoulder blades, and the microchip itself is about the size of a grain of rice. There won’t be any allergic reaction or other side effects to microchipping due to its inert and biocompatible composition. The microchipping procedure takes seconds, it doesn’t require an anaesthetic or sedation, and once it’s there, you and your pet, won’t even notice it.

A microchip lasts a lifetime, it is permanent and has its own unique identifying number for your pet.

Your personal information is private and secure. Scanning a chip will only give access to a unique set of numbers, which leads to a microchip company, who will then give your contact information only to the registered vet or other registered authority. Certainly, a microchip needs a scanner to be of any use. All vets, the SSPCA, the dog wardens, police and all rescue centres have microchip scanners. When a lost or injured pet is taken to a vet or rescue centre or is found by the dog wardens or the police, the pet is always scanned to check that it has a microchip number. The microchip data base is then contacted for the owner’s information, then the registered owner of the pet is then contacted.

Microchipping has been proven to be extremely effective in locating lost pets. A microchip identifies your pet as belonging specifically to you. It contains a unique reference number which links to your contact details as their owner and is stored on a central database. It is very important therefore that your contact details are all up to date! It is always possible to update your data, and your pet isn’t physically involved in this process. Please be sure that your details are up to date, and contact the microchip company if you move, or if there are any other information changes, for example ownership, or phone contact changes. Giving information of one or more secondary contacts, such as friends or family, is also a good idea in case you are not always available.

Hopefully there will never be a need to use the microchip because your pet will live a safe, happy, and long life with you, with no hitches. But there may be circumstances where you’ll be glad that it is there, such as if your pet gets lost, stolen, or involved in an accident.

Some pets’ can get lost or run off. Also, it is a heart-breaking and an unfortunate reality that some pets, especially purebreds with high value, are stolen and resold. Without a microchip you would never be able to trace them. Databases can mark your pet as “stolen” so that when a vet practice, rescue kennels or the police scans their microchip they can then search to see if they have been reported as lost or stolen. Some pets, particularly cats with access to the outdoors, are prone to injury, whether that is through fighting with another cat, or being involved in a road traffic accident. After being injured they may run off or be unable to make it home if they are badly hurt.

It is now a legal requirement for all dogs over eight weeks old to be microchipped.

Microchipping is in the process of being introduced as compulsory for cats in the UK. Details must be kept up-to-date with new addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.

It is also important to note that it is illegal for breeders to sell any puppies over eight weeks old that are not microchipped and on a registered database.

Make sure that you do check and update your pet’s microchip contact details. This will maximise the chances of successful reunification should your pet be lost, injured, or stolen.

For peace of mind, ask your vet at your pets next check-up to check that your pets microchip is able to be read easily, and contact the central Pet Log data base yourself, to check that they have all your up details.

Alison Laurie-Chalmers is a senior consultant at Crown Vets.

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