Importance of microchipping pets

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Microchipping your companion animal (pet) gives you the best chance of reuniting with them if they happen to run away or get lost. It’s also mandatory in many jurisdictions. Microchipping is a quick and easy procedure where a tiny chip – about the size of a grain of rice – is implanted just under the skin between the shoulder blades at the back of your pet’s neck.

How does it work?

Each chip has a unique number that is detected using a microchip scanner.  The microchip number is recorded on a registry with details about the animal and owner, so if the unthinkable happens and your pet goes missing then veterinarians, shelters or local councils can scan their chip and get your contact details.

Once a microchip is inserted, it will stay there for the duration of your pet’s life. Collars and ID tags are great – and should still be used – but if your pet breaks free from their collar or their tag falls off, a microchip will still help them be identified.

Of course, one of the best ways you can prevent this is to make sure that your beloved companion animal is safely contained to your property. For cats, this means keeping them in enclosed escape-proof outdoor area or indoors, and for dogs who have access to a backyard, making sure that backyard is escape-proof.

Keeping everything up to date

While microchips are the best way for your companion to be returned home, it is only effective if you keep your details on the microchip database up to date. Should you ever move house or change your phone number - or if your companion animal ownership changes - it’s vital you update the microchip database with which you are registered so they have access to your most up to date contact details.

The easiest way to update your contact details is to search on Pet Address using your pet’s microchip number (this also can tell you which database you are registered with, in case you forget!). Pet Address will direct you to the pet registry that lists your pet’s microchip number and will also allow you to contact them if you need your details changed.  

If you can't remember your pet's microchip number, contact your vet or the database your pet's microchip is registered with if known, and they will be able to assist. In Australia there are seven microchip registries:

If you have a greyhound and you cannot find their microchip details on any of the above registries or Pet Address, please check the Greyhound Racing Victoria Microchip Registry (as the microchips of some greyhounds originally from Victoria may only show up on the GRV Microchip Registry).


A quick and easy procedure

Some people might be worried that microchipping might distress their pet, but it’s important to know that microchipping is a quick (only takes a few seconds), safe and simple procedure that causes very little discomfort to your pet. Some pets may flinch or yelp as the chip is implanted, however the pain is minimal and short-lived and most animals will forget about it very quickly. The benefits of microchipping in terms of identifying a lost animal and reuniting them with their owner far outweigh any minimal, momentary discomfort.

Ideally your pet cat or dog should be microchipped prior to you purchasing or adopting your pet. However, if your pet is not yet microchipped then we recommend that you make an appointment with your vet to have your pet microchipped as soon as possible (even in those states where microchipping is not yet compulsory). Some local councils and animal welfare organisations can also microchip pets. All dogs and cats adopted from RSPCA shelters are microchipped (as well as desexed and vaccinated!).

For more information, visit the RSPCA Knowledgebase.


This piece was originally published in Australian Community Media newspapers