How Do Dog Microchips Work? 6 Questions Answered

A microchip is one of the biggest safety nets you can have when it comes to your dog’s wellbeing. In fact, pets with microchips are up to 20 times more likely to be reunited with their owners, according to AKC Reunite. Although many pet parents understand just how important these devices can be, few of us stop to ask, “how do dog microchips actually work?” We’ve answered six essential questions about how microchips are implanted, what information they contain, how they help lost dogs return safe and sound, and more. 

#1: What Is a Dog Microchip? 

From staying safe on a walk to preparing for a natural disaster with your dog, microchips can protect your pup in a variety of situations. So, what is a dog microchip? This rice-sized electronic device is a radio-frequency identification transponder, according to the American Kennel Club. In other words, each microchip has a “barcode” that veterinarians and animal shelter employees can scan to retrieve the dog’s unique identification number. This one-of-a-kind number can then be searched on a pet recovery database, where the pet parent’s contact information is located. As long as you are registered with one of these databases, your dog’s finder will have a way to reach you. 

#2: How Is a Microchip Inserted?


Most dogs do not need anesthesia to receive their microchip; if your pup has previously received an injection without too much fuss, getting their chip inserted should be simple! A veterinarian typically implants the microchip under a dog’s loose skin beneath the shoulder blades, and the chip is often embedded in surgical glass to prevent infection. Some microchips are also designed to bond with the tissue under a dog’s skin and stay in place, according to Petfinder

#3: Can a Microchip Track a Dog’s Location? 

Put simply, no. While there are GPS trackers capable of following your dog’s every move, microchips provide access to your information in the pet recovery database—not location-specific details. If you are interested in a GPS tracker, understand it must be charged periodically and you may need to pay a monthly service fee. 

#4: Do All Microchips Work the Same Way?

Although not all brands produce microchips with the same radio frequency, a universal ISO (International Organization for Standardization) compliant scanner can read just about any chip. There are no clear advantages of using one frequency over another, however a veterinarian or shelter employee may run into trouble if they do not have a universal scanner capable of reading a particular frequency. Depending on the database with which your microchip is registered, your furry friend’s identification information may be sent to local vets and shelters if your dog is reported as lost. 

#5: How Long Do Microchips Last? 

Microchips are designed to work for 25 years, according to the Humane Society of the United States. They do not require batteries, making them a great fallback option if your dog goes missing without any other form of identification. Just ask your vet to check your dog’s microchip during routine visits and verify that it can still be scanned. 

#6: Do Microchipped Dogs Still Need ID Tags? 


Yes! A microchip can help keep your dog safe, but it’s not completely foolproof if your dog gets loose. After all, a stranger who finds your missing pup probably won’t have a microchip scanner and may not even know your dog is chipped. Make sure your dog is always wearing an ID tag with their name plus your up-to-date address and phone number. Not to mention, teaching dog obedience training commands such as sit and stay is another great way to help your Cadet stay close to you. 

Safety First! 

Although the question, “How do dog microchips work?” may have entered your mind today, you should frequently ask yourself, “What can I do to keep my dog safe?” Whether you’re leaving your dog home while at work or visiting a dog-friendly hiking trail together, take a moment to make sure your Cadet is out of harm’s way. That includes doublechecking the front door is completely closed, ensuring your dog’s leash is secure, and taking any other necessary measures to reduce the chance of your pup escaping. You can never be too cautious! 

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