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Finding Fido - Technology to the Rescue
Microchips help owners and lost dogs be reunited

What happens if one morning you open your front door to retrieve the newspaper and Fido dashes through the door in pursuit of a squirrel, or cyclist, or even a butterfly?

Could you get him back?

Many cities and states require that dogs have a tag or collar with contact information
(I use a collar with my cell phone number only. I don't put my dog's name on it because that makes it too easy for a thief to call her).

Even if Fido has a license and tags, he may not always wear his collar; he may lose it; or thieves may deliberately remove it.

What then?

If you're among the most technologically advanced, Fido has a back-up plan - a microchip.

What a microchip is and how it's installed

A microchip is an inert electronic transponder, the size of a grain of rice.

A veterinarian can easily implant it, usually in the scruff of the neck (the loose skin between the shoulder blades). Fees typically range from $30 to $70 and the microchip itself should be in the same range.

Do be aware, however, that it requires a big needle to insert it and should only be done with sedation. Have it done when your puppy is being neutered/spayed or when a vet is cleaning your dog's teeth. Don't let someone implant it without sedation.

Once inserted, it can only be removed surgically. Being under the skin, it is safe from weather, erosion, alternation and theft and cannot be seen by the human eye. It has no battery and will last the life of your dog.

NEW - Mini microchips

Happily, vets now can use the new Micro-ID Mini Chip which are 40% smaller than the standard microchip and may be implanted without sedation.

The smaller size and weight also means they are much less likely to migrate away from the injection site.

Even better, these chips are ISO (International Standards Organization) approved so your canine companion can travel with you to Europe (see Foreign Travel below).

Ask you vet if s/he uses them and if not, request they order it for your dog(s).

Microchip and registration

Your vet should give you a brochure when the microchip is implanted with information on how to register your dog. You'll need to use the registry attached to the manufacturer of the microchip your veterinarian installs.

Depending on the brand, there may or may not be an annual fee. I use AVID microchip PETtrac registry which charges only a onetime fee (as of this writing) of $19.95 but charges $6 each time you change contact information.

With a microchip in place, a handheld reader can be run over the dog's neck and an unique ID number identified. The ID number is called in to the registry that provides 24-hour/7-day service and the owner's contact information.

That's why it's important to report your address or phone changes to the registry so its data is always current and accurate.

You also can use the registration service through the American Kennel Club {http://www.akccar.org/products.cfm} which charges (as of this writing) $19.95 for lifetime enrollment. You do not have to be an AKC member to use this service. Your dog will get a tag to wear on his collar.

I wouldn't use the AKC as the main registration, but it is a good backup. The AKC is likely to be in business 10 years from now whereas a commercial microchip company could have gone out of business or been bought out, leaving the registry in uncertain condition.

Animal shelters use microchips

Most government animal shelters check for microchips in the stray animals they take in and install microchips in the animals they put up for adoption.

Because of the large population of unwanted dogs, most shelters cannot keep strays for long. In the city I live in, adult dogs are either adopted or destroyed after THREE days in the shelter.

If the shelter isn't able to reunite the dog with an owner in a short period of time, they will euthanize the dog.

Foreign travel with your dog requires a microchip

Many foreign countries require microchips if you want to take your dog with you.

Under the Pet Travel Scheme in the European Union countries as well as Japan, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, dogs must have a microchip to avoid quarantine and travel as freely between countries as their owners.

Your dog will need an ISO standard microchips (ISO 11784 or annex A ISO standard 11785, as of this writing).

Most American veterinarians don't use ISO chips; however, if you think a trip abroad is in your dog's future, ask your vet to order an ISO one for your dog.

Even if your dog has a microchip, you can add the ISO one. It's safe for dogs to have two microchips.

Bottom line

There is no reason to hold back with microchips. It won't hurt Fido and if he's ever missing in action, it may save his life.

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