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Microchips: A Pet Owners Lifeline For A Lost Pet – Dr. Karen Whala

Budha microchipA friend of mine, who has never had a pet before, found a very sweet, female cream-colored Chihuahua. She told me it was a dream come true. She was perfectly house-trained, did not bark unless necessary, loved to cuddle and walked perfectly on the leash (btw, I would love to get this pet owners training secrets!). She had had her for about 2 weeks and every time I saw her, she would repeat how wonderful and perfect she was.

Well, it was time to bring her to the vet, me; for routine vaccines, parasite prevention and general physical exam. I didn’t expect any problems and was thrilled that it seemed like such a match. Our new owner requested microchipping as well. A scan prior to insertion revealed that our sweet Chihuahua had an owner already. Our new ‘owners’ were immediately crest-fallen when I had to let them know that she likely belonged to someone who was missing her and we must return her to her real owners. I was a bit heart-broken for my friend, but I couldn’t imagine what the real owners were feeling.

For pet owners who could imagine being heart-broken by the loss of their pet, I highly recommend microchipping them. The microchip is a rice-sized radio frequency identification device with a unique number linked to the owner’s information through a registration database. The chip is injected into the tissue between the shoulder blades and can be done at any time; however we sometimes advocate having it performed when the pet is under anesthesia for another procedure. Unfortunately it is not yet a GPS or ‘LoJack’ type tracking device but provides the best option at this time in reuniting pets with their families. This becomes especially important during natural disasters, runaways who end up at the shelters with less-than-adoptable personalities and of course, super sweet cream-colored Chihuahuas!

In a study of 53 shelters in 23 states, it was found that shelters were able to successfully locate owners of microchipped pets in 3 out of 4 cases! It definitely saves lives, but it is imperative that owners keep their information current on the chipmakers registration database. In those cases where owners were not united, the main reason cited was outdated information.

If you’re not sure your pet is microchipped or not, just ask your veterinarian to perform a microchip scan and request having them chipped if they are not. If your pet is microchipped, obtain the unique microchip number and register your contact information. You may enter the microchip number at AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup to get instructions on how to register at

My friend and I are still looking for that ‘perfect’ dog and I’m confident we’ll find one. One that needs a loving home…and we’ll definitely have him/her microchipped!