A microchip ID is a small transmitter about the size of a grain of rice. When a scanner passes over it, a signal is emitted indicating the unique identification number of the chip. This tiny but sturdy little implant can reunite you with a lost pet, serve as proof of ownership in a dispute, or even mean the difference between euthanasia and medical care in an emergency. In many communities, it is not legal to own an unmicrochipped dog and in many communities shelters automatically microchip any pet that is released through its doors for adoption.
Microchipping has been around for over twenty years yet there is still some resistance to chipping in the pet-owning public. Hopefully this FAQ will clear up any confusion.
The microchip ID is small enough to pass through a fairly large needle made for this purpose. Microchips are generally shipped in an individually packaged syringe made for chip implantation. Implantation is basically a shot and, if you like, it can be done in the examination room while you watch. The needle is fairly large so sometimes there is a yipe but, more often then not, the reaction is minimal. Chips can be implanted in newborn animals to assist in telling them apart. Some people like to wait until the pet is being spayed or neutered so as to be anesthetized for the rather large needle but waiting runs the risk of the pet escaping unidentified so it is a good idea to implant the chip as soon as possible.
A common misconception is that the chip implantation requires surgery. In fact, a chip can be implanted in a matter of seconds while you wait.
Only the unique identification number is encoded on the chip. None of your personal information is on the chip. The chip number is similar to a vehicle identification number on a car. It is registered in a central registry just as a car is registered and it is the central registry that has your personal information (name, address, phone number, alternate contact, pet description etc.).
No. A microchip is not a location device. At the present time, GPS collars are available but their use is limited by the fact that a collar can be removed or can come off.
A microchip is an identification device, not a locator.
It is vitally important that you register your chip. Simply having a chip will not bring your pet home to you. If a chip is unregistered, the manufacturer can trace the chip to the facility (pet store, shelter, animal hospital etc.) that they sold it to but if that facility does not have their own records, this will lead to a dead end. Be sure your chip registration is up to date.
If your chip is not registered and someone finds your pet and wishes to keep him, they may simply register the chip in their own name.
No. Once the chip is registered, that registration is indefinite. This is a good thing in that the chip never becomes unregistered after it has been registered. The problem is that people move or the pet changes ownership and the chip information is never updated. Some chip registries have developed deluxe programs that do require annual renewal largely as a means to remind you to keep your information current.
There are several and a chip can be registered in any of them. The good news is that most chip distributors have their own registries and it is easy to find a chip's most likely registry based on its number. For example, one company's chips are generally in the database of that company.
Microchip registration is different from licensing a pet although many communities include chip numbers in the license paperwork for a pet and maintain their own chip database.
Microchips in the United States traditionally have 10 digits and emit their signals in the 125 kHz frequency. In many other parts of the world a different standard is used involving a 15-digit chip number that is read at the 134 kHz frequency. This second type of chip is often called an ISO chip. When a pet travels to another country, the implantation of an ISO chip is frequently required.
Since most pets never travel outside the U.S., this was an uncommon issue for a long time. Currently, there is a movement to eventually have one world standard of microchip. That said, not every shelter or animal hospital in the U.S. may be equipped to read ISO chips at this time. It is up to you if you wish to have a traditional chip or an ISO chip implanted. This decision should be based on the advice of your veterinarian and/or knowledge of what brand of chips are scanned at the shelter in your community.
This is the obvious situation for which the chip ID was developed. If your lost pet is recovered by the local shelter or taken to an animal hospital as a lost pet, the pet is scanned, the number found, the registry contacted, and you will be notified. Our hospital has seen lost pets recovered within an hour of escape from a yard or car.Natural Disaster
Earthquake, flood, fire, mudslide, hurricane etc. all lead to pets separated from their homes. In some cases, Animal Control must evacuate pets from a community into a central holding area. Being able to prove a pet is yours is invaluable in this situation, especially if your pet is difficult to identify from a photo or does not have distinguishing markings. After Hurricane Katrina, a number of rescued animals were evacuated to holding areas and their photos posted on the Internet. Many pets were frightened and good photographs could not be obtained.Injury
If a pet is injured while lost or roaming (as in the case of an outdoor cat hit by a car), a good Samaritan might bring the pet to an animal hospital for care. A stranger may not be willing to cover expenses for a pet they found on the road and if your pet has no identification, you may never even know what happened. A microchip allows you to be notified so that you can make decisions.
Mother Nature usually does things pretty economically, trying to get genes passed on from one generation to the next with a minimum of fuss.
When people step in and start mucking about is usually when the troubles begin. When we breed for a particular look (rather than for a purpose intended to maximize the chances of passing on genes), function gets tossed out the window at the expense of form, and things can get bogged down pretty quickly.
Lots of different dogs suffer from problems because of fad breeding, but perhaps none so much as the short-nosed, or "brachycephalic" breeds such as pugs, English Bulldogs and the like. As the weather turns warmer, we see a lot more of these dogs suffering from heat stroke in our emergency unit at Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine.
Dogs are largely unable to sweat. Maybe a little around the feet (sometimes my more nervous patients will leave cute little paw-shaped sweat prints on the exam table), but not through their skin as people can. They regulate their body temperature largely though panting, which dumps heat from their bodies through evaporation of water from their tongues rather than their skin.
In order to keep cool through panting, dogs need a good airway. Brachycephalic dogs almost all have narrower windpipes relative to other dogs of comparable size -- a condition known as "tracheal hypoplasia." Bulldogs often have a trachea that would keep a Yorkie quite happy, but for the bulldog, it must be like breathing through a coffee stirrer. When we have to intubate brachycephalic dogs for surgery (which involves placing a soft, plastic tube into their trachea to deliver oxygen and anesthetic gases), they will often wake up with the tube in place after the procedure and seem quite happy to have an open and bigger airway for the first time in their lives. Most other dogs can't wait to get the dang tube out!
Brachycephalic dogs can also have little blobs of tissue in the back of their throat (known as "laryngeal saccules") that can turn inside out and block the airway, and they often have teensy-weensy little nostrils that look cute but don't move too much actual air. Together, tiny tracheas, lumps of flesh and wee nostrils are called a "brachycephalic airway syndrome," and while surgery can fix a few of the problems and provide for a better life for some of these dogs, the threat of heat exhaustion always remains.
When they try to dump excess body heat through panting, brachycephalics have to work so hard to move enough air through their tiny tracheas that they actually end up generating more heat and making things worse. It would be like having a coal-fired air-conditioner in your house; when the house gets warm, the A/C kicks on, but the heat from the coal fire would make the house warmer.
When the weather turns warm and humid, these dogs need to stay in a carefully controlled and cool environment to avoid overheating.When the weather turns warm and humid, these dogs need to stay in a carefully controlled and cool environment to avoid overheating.
Signs of heat exhaustion -- the last step before heat stroke -- include bright red gums, an inability to get up and loud, raspy panting. Dogs that are going into full-on heat stroke often vomit, become severely lethargic and can have explosive diarrhea. Once heat stroke develops, cooling them down is the top priority but it often is not enough. Some dogs will go down the slippery and tragic slope into multi-organ failure and be unable to be saved, even with days of ICU-level care.
Prevention is the key with this condition, so remember to keep these dogs in a cool environment and always watch out for heat exhaustion.
If you think your dog is suffering from heat stroke or exhaustion, douse them in cool water, get them out of the heat and calmed down, and head for the nearest veterinarian without delay. Even a few minutes can make all the difference in the world.
Dr. Tony Johnson is a board-certified specialist in emergency and critical care and a professor at the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine. He is on the Pet Connection advisory board.
Back to basics for dog who messes home
Q: My dog is no longer a puppy, but he keeps having accidents in the house. I think he does it on purpose, but punishing him doesn't help. I'd like to replace the rugs, but can't until this problem is resolved. Ideas? -- via email
A: Punishing your pet isn't fair, and it isn't the answer: You have to go back to square one and teach him properly. Before you start training, though, you must be sure that what you have is really a behavior problem and not a physical problem. You won't be able to train your pet if he's struggling with an illness. So check with your veterinarian first for a complete checkup.
If you've ruled out medical problems, house-training an adult dog uses the same principles as house-training a puppy, except you have to be even more diligent because you need to do some untraining, too. And a lot of cleaning: You must thoroughly clean any soiled area with enzymatic cleaner (available through pet supply outlets) to eliminate the smell that invites repeat business.
You'll need to teach your dog what's right before you can correct him for what's wrong. To do this, spend a couple of weeks ensuring that he has nothing but successes by never giving him the opportunity to make a mistake.
Leash him to you in the house so you can monitor his every move during his training period. If he starts to mess, tell him "no," take him outside, and give him a command for going ("go now" or even "let's hurry"). Then praise him for doing right, so he starts to understand what you want.
Put him in a crate whenever he's not on leash with you. It's not unfair during training to leave him in a crate for four or five hours at a stretch -- assuming, of course, that he's getting his regular daily exercise.
Take him outside first thing in the morning, as soon as you get home from work and just before you go to bed (when you put him in his crate for the night). Always remember to give your "go" command, and praise him when he does as you wish. People never seem shy about punishing their dogs, but too often forget to praise them -- they take it for granted the dog should do the right thing. Never, ever forget the praise!
If you've been consistent, your dog likely will get a good idea of what's expected of him within a couple of weeks. If you continue to have problems, ask your veterinarian for a referral to a veterinary behaviorist. One-on-one assistance can pinpoint the problems in your training regimen and get you both on the right track. - Gina Spadafori The Buzz