For those of you who are too busy to read blogs I’ll answer the question with a question: Do you follow your friends on social media to see where they are throughout the day? Okay, there’s our answer. Our friends are not helpless, unidentifiable, lost, unable to communicate to strangers, and petrified without you. Yet we have the technology to find them more easily than our cats or dogs. I'm your local pet sitter. I love your dog and cat too because every day I come over and spend time there and though I might be the dog walker you pay, and the lady who scoops the box and gives kitty treats, your pets are my world, so I've done some research.
Pets who get loose can quickly get confused, disoriented and then lost. Once they are in this mode they are not always the friendly, approachable animals we had in our homes just a few hours ago and they may be difficult to catch. Dogs can go great distances in a short period of time, especially if they are after something they find interesting that’s on the move. They cross streets, go on properties where they may not be welcomed and can be in danger. If they are lucky they will eventually get to a rescue shelter where they will be safe, but when and which shelter?
Obviously, you’ve called Harpers Ferry Tails so I can mobilize any of my local pet sitting contacts and help. You've called the shelters and animal control, posted it on Lost and Found Pets of Jefferson County WV Facebook Page and followed the posted directions there, including pictures, you’ve alerted the neighborhood and put up flyers. You have followed all the instructions, but you’re worried. Your best friend is missing and every minute that goes by is scarier. As a pet sitter and an animal lover, I believe microchipping can help increase your chances of being reunited sooner.
Microchips are small transponders that are placed under your pet’s skin between their shoulders that contain data provided by the pet owner allowing the pet to be returned with their human quickly. The chip is placed in the pet using a needle slightly larger than the ones used for drawing blood and can be done with or without anesthesia. It will be done during spay/neuter or scheduled procedures when that is an option. In all events, the procedure needs to be done by a veterinarian to insure proper placement and procedure. Even without anesthesia, the animal will just feel a pinch, that is short and temporary.
Placement is just half of microchipping. The other half, which is as important, as each part is useless without the other, is registering the chip with your information, and KEEPING the information updated! If your best buddy gets lost they have a significantly higher rate of successful return if they are chipped and the data is current. They cannot find you if you have moved and there is not current information on the chip, so protect your investment and fill out the paperwork and keep it current. There is one more maintenance item for chipping pets which is to have your vet scan the pet annually or so to make sure the chip has not shifted and is still readable. Maybe check it twice a year when you change your smoke detector batteries!
It's important to understand that microchipping is not a global positioning system (GPS) and will not reveal the pet’s location. Chipping is also not a substitute for tags. Pets should be wearing ID tags as well (break away tags for cats), but neither are 100% reliable. If you’re lucky enough for your neighbor down the street to pick up your pooch, your name and phone number on the tag is going to be what they need because chances are slim that they will have a chip reader. However, if Animal Control gets there first and the tag has come off for some reason, the microchip may be what saves your pet’s life and gets you reunited before breakfast.
Now for the caveats… There must always be another side to every story, so here are the things to consider before you decide. My career was in clinical research prior to pet sitting. I ate, slept and breathed risk/benefit ratios, so I read the data. First, there is more than one brand of microchip, and therefore more than one scanner out there and they are expensive so not everybody has all the available scanners but they seem to be working towards databases that help and there are now universal scanners that pick up most frequencies. Benefit outweighs risk, it’s still better than not having a chip. Secondly, other countries use a different frequency, so if you change countries you need to get another chip. They don’t interfere with each other, and the original chip does not need to be removed. Still, beneficial. Third, there have been some side effects and reports of cancer. Looking closer, the cancer was in rats and mice and the cases were rare, while cats and dogs were very insignificant numbers that can’t be definitively attributed to the chip. Even if they were, the numbers were not what would be considered statistically significant. In other words, the reported side effects from aspirin or even chicken nuggets would scare you considerably more than this were you to read them. So again, the benefits greatly outweigh the risks in my opinion.
All day long I see pets go missing and pets turn up with no identification on the missing pet sites here in Jefferson County WV and it’s so sad. I love reading the REUNITED posts! According to my research, it would cost anywhere from $15-50 to get the implant. Make sure that the implant you are getting can be read by a UNIVERSAL scanner as those are the ones replacing the older ones and pick up the most brands. To be safe, because you don’t know what scanner they have, register your pet on several registries. Some are free and some have a fee. Just be sure to keep them updated! I’d personally stick with a vet that is implanting a big brand name and make sure they are national and have the universal scanners in the right places. When it comes to my pets, I’m not a bargain hunter.
As a pet sitter, I love your pets too. I want to see them safe and happy. I have never had a pet escape from my home while boarding or during dog walking, or pet sitting, but I know I would feel better knowing they were chipped. After looking at all the information, I can professionally recommend this method and say that it will increase the odds of getting a pet back home safely and sooner. I hope you never have to use it, but it's a pretty reasonable expense in exchange for unconditional love.