Millions of pets in the United States have microchips so they can be returned to their homes if they become lost. A collar and tag with your phone number may be the easiest way for you to be reunited with your pet, but collars can slip off — and a microchip can’t. 

In celebration of National Microchipping Month, we’ve broken down the basics with these five facts about microchipping your pet. 

1. Microchips help animal shelters return lost pets

Microchips are supposed to help lost pets reunite with their owners, but do they actually work? Yes! 

In a 2009 study of 53 animal shelters, researchers at the Ohio State University found that dogs with microchips are 2.4 times more likely to be returned to their owners, and microchipped cats are a massive 21.4 times more likely. That’s a huge difference!

2. Microchips are about the size of a grain of rice

A microchip is a tiny chip in a glass cylinder. Using a needle, it’s implanted between a cat or dog’s shoulder blades. The process is similar to administering a vaccine — your pet doesn’t have to go through anesthesia and the process takes a few quick seconds. 

Within 24 hours, the pet’s subcutaneous tissues will bond to the microchip, holding it in place. It’s very rare for a microchip to migrate to other parts of the body. 

Microchipping is very safe. The British Small Veterinary Association keeps track of reports of adverse reactions to microchips, and since 1996, only 391 adverse reactions have been reported out of over four million microchipped animals.

3. Microchips contain a registration number

Microchips don’t store any information and can’t help you track your pet like a GPS might. Microchips don’t even have batteries! When a microchip scanner is passed over the pet,  the microchip emits a frequency — the exact frequency depends on the brand. The scanner “reads” the number on the microchip. The shelter employee can then look up the microchip’s number in a database to get the owner’s contact information.

4. Microchips are built to last

Microchips are designed to last for 25 years, well over the average life expectancy for cats and dogs. This means that they will take care of your pet for their entire life. 

It’s important to remember to update your contact information on the microchip’s registry if you move or get a new phone number. The Ohio State University study we mentioned reported that incorrect or disconnected phone numbers are the top reason a missing microchipped pet can’t be reunited with its owner.

5. Microchips aren’t just for cats and dogs

Cats and dogs are frequently microchipped, but other pets can get microchips too! Rabbits, horses, ferrets, llamas — all kinds of pets can be microchipped. 

However, not all animals get microchips between their shoulder blades. Goats are microchipped on the underside of their tails or at the base of their ear, for example, and horses are microchipped on their necks. 

Are you within a 35-mile radius of Blacksburg? The Small Animal Community Practice at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital provides full-service, outpatient preventive health care to local small animal clients. 

To schedule an appointment, please call 540-231-4621, Monday–Friday, 7 a.m.–5 p.m.

Written by Sarah Boudreau M.F.A. '21, a writer with the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine


Andrew Mann
Director of Communications and Marketing