What Is A ...

What Is A Pet Microchip And How Does It Work?

By Andrea Quarracino | September 7, 2021

A pet microchip can play a critical role in reuniting you with your pet if they get lost. Still, it's crucial to understand how pet microchips work and how to keep your pet's microchip registration up to date to make sure they remain effective. Wondering how to find a lost dog or missing cat with a microchip?  

Once you know how to manage your pet's microchip, you'll be on the way to helping your best friend get back home if they roam.

What Is a Pet Microchip?

Microchips are a permanent form of pet identification that uses a unique number to identify your pet when scanned. This rice-sized radio frequency identification device (RFID) is quickly inserted under your pet's skin with a hypodermic needle, where it will usually remain for their lifetime. The microchip implantation can happen as part of a routine veterinary visit or during a procedure like neutering or spaying. You can also get your pet microchipped at an animal shelter's vaccine and microchipping clinic or at your local Vetco↗.  

When a lost cat or dog is found and brought to a veterinary clinic, shelter, rescue, or humane society, they will be scanned for a microchip to establish their identity and reunite the missing cat or dog with their owner.

Can You Track a Pet With a Microchip?

In short, no. "[A pet microchip] is not a GPS or tracking device, and the microchip itself holds no personal contact information," says Michelle Cole, Chief Marketing and Sales Officer at Pethealth Inc.

Instead, microchip numbers get registered into a lost pet recovery database, says Cole. The database links your pet's unique microchip number to information about them and about you.

When a veterinarian or shelter employee determines that a found pet has a microchip (by scanning the pet with a microchip reading device), the shelter or veterinary staff will look to the lost pet recovery registry for the microchip provider and will pull up the contact information associated with that chip.

That's why Cole stresses that it is vital for pet owners to keep their contact information up to date in the microchip registry or database↗ so you can be reached quickly if your pet is found away from their home. With any luck, that first phone call will begin the process of bringing a lost cat or dog home. 

Gina Knepp, National Shelter Engagement Director at Michelson Found Animals, suggests adding an emergency contact in your pet's microchip registration, too. If you have a friend or family member who is reliable and easy to reach, consider including their phone number as a backup option. Should your cat or dog ever go missing or be injured outside of your home, it'll be critical for the person who finds them to be able to contact you as soon as possible.  

How Much Do Microchips Cost?

According to Michelson Found Animals, the cost of microchipping a pet can range from $10 to $75↗. Many locations offer low-cost microchips and pet vaccination clinics, so it's worth it to do a little research and see what opportunities may be available in your area.  

The cost of microchipping your pet is well worth it, and it's a precaution to take in case your pet ever needs help finding their way home. "Microchipped dogs get reunited at twice the rate of non-microchipped dogs," says Cole. "Microchipped cats get reunited at five times the rate of non-chipped cats."

How to Register a Pet Microchip

Getting your pet microchipped is the first step. The second is to make sure you register that microchip and link it to your contact information. Luckily, you can get your pet's information updated in a few quick (but critical) steps:

  • Get your pet's microchip number. If you misplaced it, check with the provider (most commonly, your vet or animal shelter) who chipped your pet — they should have this on file.

  • Next, register the microchip through a reputable pet microchip database, like 24PetWatch↗, the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup↗, or the Michelson Found Animals Registry↗. If your pet gets lost and scanned, your contact information will remain on file.  

That's it! Just make sure to keep your registration information up to date to give your best friend their best chance at getting back to you quickly if they go missing. 

How To Find a Microchipped Pet

If your microchipped pet gets lost, take these steps to help reunite with your cat or dog ASAP:

  • Go to Petco Love Lost to file a lost pet report. You can also use our comprehensive database to search for your lost dog or cat by their microchip number. 

  • Check with your microchip recovery database provider

     to see if there is an option to report a lost pet, and make sure your contact information is up to date.  

I Found a Pet — Where Should I Bring Them for a Microchip Scan?

Bringing a found pet to get their microchip scanned could make a real difference for a lost cat or dog and the people who love them. Remember, every found pet may have a family who is anxiously awaiting their return, so it's essential to do what you can to help a missing cat or dog get back home.  

Snap a picture and create a found pet report on Petco Love Lost to see if the pet matches with a lost pet on the database. Then, you can usually get a found pet's microchip scanned at several animal welfare locations or pet health environments, such as: 

  • Animal shelters

  • Veterinary clinics

  • Petco Pet Care Centers

  • Animal service or control facilities

  • Humane societies

Though they may be tiny, microchips can play a tremendous role in reuniting lost pets with their parents. While no one wants to imagine that their pet could go missing, getting your dog or cat microchipped and keeping your registration information up to date can help you rest assured that your furry friend is prepared to get back home again.


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