Discuss Microchipping with Clients
Losing a pet = heartbreaking
Microchipping your pet = $50
Peace of mind = priceless
Pets today are considered members of the family. Therefore, losing a pet can be damaging to individuals and families, not to mention devastating (if not fatal) to the pets themselves.
Risks of Losing a Pet
Animal shelters end up with millions of animals every year with only 15-20% of dogs and less than 2% of cats finding their way back to their owners.1,2 Even the most diligent pet owner is at risk for the pet to slip out of its collar or harness, escape through the front door when the owner opens it, slip through a non-screened window, etc. As veterinary professionals, trying to help families only after a beloved pet has gone missing when there are no clues is heartbreaking.
The Value of Microchipping
To help create more happy reunions, veterinary healthcare teams should discuss and educate owners on microchipping their pet(s). Although collars and tags are important and certainly beneficial when worn by the pet, they’re at risk for breaking, fading, becoming scratched, or even falling off the animal. Should this occur, there is no way to determine to whom the animal belongs—unless the pet is microchipped. Microchipping is a permanent means of identification for your clients and their beloved pet family members. Unlike collars and tags which may be broken or unreadable, microchips are placed under the skin of the pet, providing an unalterable means of identification. Microchipping allows the best possible chance of a bringing a lost or stolen pet back to their family.
How Microchipping is Done
Implanting a microchip is safe and easy—and can be performed during a routine office visit. A microchip is a small, electronic chip enclosed in a glass case that is often compared in size to a grain of rice. It is injected under the skin using a hypodermic needle. The microchip is activated by a scanner passed over the area of the microchip implanted in the pet. The scanner activates the chip and the identification number of the chip is registered by the scanner. If an animal is lost and is brought to a veterinary hospital or shelter, one of the first procedures performed is a scan for a microchip.
Research Statistics on Microchipping Benefits
Studies have shown that approximately 75% of lost dogs and cats that had been microchipped were returned to their owners because of the pets’ microchip.3 Another study looked at animals presenting to animal shelters. More than 7,700 stray animals presented to the shelter without a microchip were returned to their owner 21.9% of the time as opposed to microchipped dogs that were returned to their owners 52.2% of the time. This study also looked at cats without microchips and these cats were only reunited with their families 1.8% of the time versus microchipped cats that went home 38.5% of the time.4-7 There have also been reports of dogs being reunited with their family years after being lost because the microchip was detected by a shelter or healthcare team. Microchips have also been responsible for reuniting pets lost as far as 1,000 miles away from their homes.
Three Actions Required by Owners
Healthcare teams must educate owners on the importance of microchipping—but also on:
• the importance of registering the chip in the database
• updating the information as needed
• having the pet maintain a healthy weight
To explain the last bullet point above, having the pet maintain a healthy weight will decrease the risks for a number of diseases, and will also increase the chances of a pet reuniting with their family. A study published in 2008 showed that for every 2.3 kg increase in body weight of an animal was associated with a 5-8% increase in the odds of a microchip not being detected!8 Thus healthcare teams have another reason to discuss the importance of a healthy weight for pets (see Discuss Pet Obesity with Clients). Consequently, compliance with the recommendations of implanting a microchip and having the pet maintain a healthy weight will increase the chance of the client being reunited with their pet, in event of separation.
How does the healthcare team increase compliance? Through the development of a protocol of which ALL team members are aware and are actively recommending. Remember, protocols keep us all heading in the shared direction of patient care.
Shifts in the hospital vary, as do individuals’ time at the hospital; therefore, protocols must allow for patient care to remain consistent and for vital communication to be shared and exchanged amongst all healthcare team members.
When and How to Discuss Microchipping
Microchipping patients should be addressed with all pet owners whether they are:
• a new client/patient
• an existing client whose pet may or may not have been microchipped
• a client with a new pet
Recommendations should also be made no matter the species of pet: cat, dog, bird, horse, etc. Dr. Mary Ann Vande Linde developed a protocol for the microchipping process which involves every team member during each stage of the pet visit. Education is one of the most important steps in increasing compliance with the recommendation of microchipping. The healthcare team must educate the owner concerning the risks of pets getting lost or separated from the owner and that microchipping is the permanent identification method for their pets, and offers the best chance of being reunited with their pet.
Remember to document the recommendation and education about microchipping in the patient’s medical record!
The healthcare team member educating the client on the benefits of microchipping should answer any questions, confirm the client has asked all the questions in mind, and then highlight the recommendation on the travel sheet that accompanies the patient through the entire hospital visit. This extra step will insure the veterinarian knows the client has been educated on the importance of microchipping. Subsequently, the owner and veterinarian can come to a mutual agreement that a microchip should be placed in the pet.
Microchipping’s Overall Purpose
Veterinary healthcare teams are well aware of the pain clients go through when their pet gets away or is lost or stolen. Therefore, it is important that the healthcare team educate and recommend microchipping to owners. Following a standard protocol for the microchipping process will insure all team members are giving the same message and relaying the importance of permanent identification of the family pet. The result is a happier, healthier family with the best possible chance of staying together.
The most commonly recommended microchips available in the United States include:
AKC Companion Animal Recovery® (AKC CAR®)
1. http://www.webMD.com/features/microchipping-your-dog-or-cat. Eckstein, S.
2. http://www.healthypet.com./findapet/microchip article.
3. Lord LK, Ingwerson W, Gray JL et al. Characterization of animals with microchips entering animal shelters. J Amer Vet Med Assoc 2009; 235: 160-167.
4. Lord LK, Wittum TE, Ferketich AK, et al. Search methods that owners use to find a lost dog. J Amer Vet Med Assoc 2007; 230: 211-216.
5. Lord LK, Wittum TE, Ferketich AK, et al. Demographic trends for animal care and control agencies in Ohio from 1996 to 2004. J Amer Vet Med Assoc 2006; 229: 48-54.
6. Lord LK, Wittum TE, Ferketich AK, et al. Search methods that people use to find owners of lost pets. J Amer Vet Med Assoc 2007; 230: 217-220.
7. Lord LK, Wittum TE, Ferketich AK, et al. Search methods that owners use to find a lost cat. J Amer Vet Med Assoc 2007; 230: 1835-1840.
8. Lord LK, Pennell ML, Ingwerson W, et al. Sensitivity of commercial scanners to microchips of various frequencies implanted in dogs and cats. J Amer Vet Med Assoc 2008; 233: 1729-1735.