Every year, shelters take in a staggering three million dogs, many of which are lost pets. Sadly, dogs lacking permanent identification are returned to their owners only 22% of the time. The remainder are put up for adoption or face euthanasia to clear shelter space. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), one in three companion animals will get lost during their lifetime. While you may think you could never lose your dog, accidents happen—fences fail, doors get left open, and collars slip off. Implanting a microchip can improve the chances of a safe return. Whether your pet is already chipped or you’d like to learn more about the process, join AVMA and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) for Check the Chip Day in August.

What is Check the Chip Day?

AVMA and AAHA join forces each year to sponsor Check the Chip Day on August 15 ito educate dog owners and encourage them to microchip their pets. If your dog is already microchipped, Check the Chip Day serves as a reminder to ensure the chip is working properly and your contact information is up-to-date in the database. Check with your veterinarian or local humane organization and take advantage of microchip scanning and implantation events in your area. Still not convinced? Read on.

microchipped dog tag

How Do Microchips Work?

A microchip is a tiny device implanted underneath your dog’s skin, usually between the shoulder blades. When a special handheld scanner activates the chip, a radio frequency signal transmits your dog’s unique ID number to the screen. If your pet is lost, a veterinary hospital or animal shelter can bring up your pet’s microchip number and contact the chip’s manufacturer to obtain your contact information. Microchips do not directly store your contact information and can’t transmit a GPS signal, so your information and privacy are safe. 

The Truth about Microchip Safety

Some people worry that microchips might cause their dog physical harm, including tumors or cancer, but complications occur with microchips less than 1% of the time. The most common complications include chip migration and chip failure. These aren’t harmful, but the effectiveness of the chip obviously decreases. Skin infection or hair loss at the chip site are possible but rare. Microchips have been used for decades, and no association with cancer has been found. 

The benefits of microchipping far outweigh the risks. If your dog gets lost, a microchip doubles your chances of a successful reunion. Collars and ID tags can fall off, but microchips are permanent. 

Where Do I Get My Dog Microchipped?

Your veterinarian can microchip your dog during a routine office visit. Microchips are often implanted during a dog’s spay or neuter surgery, but sedation or anesthesia is not necessary. Your veterinarian uses a syringe and needle to inject the chip under the skin quickly and then gives you the information you need to register the chip with the manufacturer. Without proper registration, your information won’t link to your dog’s chip, so do not skip this step! 

A critical note about microchips is that they are not standardized, and each manufacturer operates on one of three different frequencies. If your dog needs a microchip for breeding or international travel, you’ll have to have a specific type called an ISO (International Standards Organization) standard chip. Don’t worry if your dog ends up with more than one microchip—they won’t interfere with each other and can be scanned independently. Veterinary organizations are pushing for industry standardization, but market competition hasn’t allowed this yet. Most veterinarians and shelters own a “universal” scanner to ensure one can successfully scan chips regardless of frequency.

Microchip Maintenance

When microchipped dogs aren’t returned to their owners, the cause could be outdated or missing registry information. Only six out of ten microchips are registered! Each time you move, change your phone number, or acquire a dog who’s already chipped, you need to update your microchip information. Each manufacturer maintains its own registry and most can be accessed online for easy changes. If you lose your pet’s microchip information, your veterinarian can use AAHA’s microchip look-up tool to identify the manufacturer for you. Check the Chip Day is an excellent opportunity to ensure your pet’s microchip is working properly and remind yourself to keep chip information updated. 

Microchip Success Stories

HomeAgain, a microchip company partnered with Merck Veterinary Health, also helps sponsor Check the Chip Day. HomeAgain recovers 19,000 pets each month and has reunited more than two million pets with their families. Some reunion stories are truly amazing, including a pitbull mix who traveled from New Mexico to Nebraska over two years and finally reunited with her family thanks to a microchip. Check out HomeAgain, AAHA, and AVMA’s microchipping information on Check the Chip Day, August 15, and prioritize your dog’s safety.

Looking for more articles about pet-parenting advice? Check out the Blog at TheDailyDog.com.