Why Microchipping Your Pet Helps to Keep You From Embarrassing Yourself

I have a confession to make. I have been a very bad dog daddy.

I know. I was surprised and horrified too. But the truth is, I have not practiced what I’ve preached when it comes to animal safety.

I go on and on about the importance of microchipping your pet, and how it helps to reunite lost pets with their owners. It is such a simple, yet effective safeguard for pets. It’s a “no-brainer”…and I’m admitting to you now, dear readers, that I apparently misplaced my brain because until a couple of weeks ago, the microchip information for my two dogs, Oliver and Madeline, was out of date.

Like, really out of date. Like, 15 years out of date. In those 15 years, I’ve changed cell numbers twice, and I’ve had 5 different home addresses. That means at any point in the last 15 or so years, if either Maddie or Ollie somehow wandered out of the house or yard, my chances for reunification would have been dramatically reduced. Translation: Jack is a big dumb-dumb.

Ok, here’s what happened.

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to speak at an event in Long Beach called “Cinco De Doggo” – a day long festival celebrating our love of pets at the Museum of Latin American Art. It was a really cool event. There were lots of fun activities for people and their dogs, like paw-painting, dog yoga, doggy acupuncture, etc. I was part of a panel discussion about pet wellness, behavior training and rescue advocacy.

A member of the audienced asked, “Do I really need to get a microchip for my dog if she is always wearing her license and tags on a collar around her neck? I just don’t like the idea of a foreign object being injected into her skin like that.”

I was on a stage with a microphone, so of course I answered her question in great detail and animated enthusiasm. Here’s the gist of what I said.

Both proper ID tags and a microchip are important – and let me tell you why. Most pet owners buy their dogs and cats collars and add a name tag with the pet’s name and their phone number. These are great, and certainly adorable fashion accessories, but outdated. They can easily break, fall off, or even the name or phone number can wear off of the tag over time. The microchip is permanent and can’t be separated from the pet.

The American Humane Society estimates over 10 million dogs or cats are reported lost each year. Unfortunately, a large percentage of those lost pets are never returned to their owner. There could be a number of reasons for the failure to reunite, but top of the list is the inability to identify and contact the owner.

Let’s talk about what a “microchip” is and how the process of microchipping your pet works. Microchips are tiny computer chips, about the size of a grain of rice. They are implanted under your pet’s skin by a veterinarian using a large bore needle without anesthesia, similar to a simple vaccination.

Each microchip carries a registration number that is associated with the owner’s name and contact information. This information is added to a pet registry service offered by the chip manufacturer.

The registry information on the chips can be read using a handheld reader that displays the information so that the owner can be identified. Most shelters and veterinarians have these readers and can scan the pet and contact the owner if the pet is lost. One limitation is that the readers are not universal, so it’s best to get your pet chipped with a common brand so the likelihood that the chip can be read is increased.

Several recent studies show that cats with microchips are 20 times more likely to be returned to their owner and chipped dogs are returned 2.5 times more than unchipped dogs. That’s a pretty significant difference – so it’s best to stack the cards in your favor.

Finally, I said, microchips last a lifetime. Once implanted, you don’t have to worry about them, although it is a good idea to have your vet scan your pet each year to guard against any malfunction and to make sure the contact information is up to date.

As soon as those words came out of my mouth, I realized I had not done it myself in a really, REALLY long time. Since this occurred to me on stage with a microphone in my hand, the entire audience got to experience my horror when I involuntarily shouted, “OH S*&@#!!!”

I was well aware of how strange that outburst must have been, so I admitted to the audience that I had not taken my own advice, and just realized it in that moment. Horrified, I promised right then and there that I would get to my vet the following day to have Maddie and Ollie’s chips scanned and update their information immediately.

One of the other panelists informed me after that I had turned a rather entertaining shade of red after my outburst.

Smooth, Jack. Real smooth.

The month of May is “Chip Your Pet Month” – so do me a favor. Don’t wait until you’re on stage in front of a couple hundred people to realize you haven’t updated the contact information on your pet’s microchip. It’s kind of embarrassing. The chip is only as effective as the accuracy of the contact information it holds.

When it comes to our pet’s safety, we can always do better. And we should.

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