Scanning a dog at Animal House Vets Bristol

What is microchipping in dogs?

A “microchip” (also known as an “ID chip”, “identichip”, or technically a “coded subcutaneous transponder”) is a small electronic device, about the size of a grain of rice, that is implanted under the skin, usually between the dog’s shoulder blades. It is encoded with a unique number, and when scanned with a special reader, it broadcasts that number for the reader to display. The ID number can then be looked up on a database, so the dog’s keeper and address can be found.

Pet Passport at Animal House Vets Bristol

Vets have been using microchips for years and it isn’t possible to get a Pets Passport without one, something which  Animal House Vets will be happy to do. The chip doesn’t contain a power source or battery, or emit any radiation – it works by reflecting back the electromagnetic field from the reader, and embedding the code number in the reflection. They are very robust and usually last a dog’s lifetime.

Why is it done?

Sometimes, it’s done to prove a dog’s identity for the Pets Passport; however, the most common reason is to help reunite the dog with his or her owners if they stray, become lost, or are injured. Microchips are absolutely invaluable in these situations! Dogs that get lost may roam for miles away from home before they’re found, and if there’s no way to identify them, they go to the dog pound and usually never get back to their owners.Bluebell Jack Russell Terrier owned by Mark Binns

Mark was pleased he microchipped his own Jack Russell Terrier, Bluebell. In 2013 she was stolen from his garden, eventually turning up in Swindon 9 months later. If it wasn’t for her microchip, Mark might have not been reunited with her again.

I’ve been reading about compulsory microchipping for dogs. What is it all about?

From 6 April 2016, it will be a legal requirement for all dogs the UK to have a microchip, which is registered to their current keeper (usually the owner). In England, the legislation is the Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015; however, the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales are introducing similar legislation to start on the same date, and it is of course already the law in Northern Ireland.

The main reason these laws have been brought in is the sheer number of dogs who wander off and become separated from their owners. The cost of caring for them and trying to return them to their keepers is estimated at £33 million per year, which falls mainly on local government and welfare charities – both of which have far better uses for the money! The emotional cost to the owners and dogs is, of course, much higher – especially as, according to the Dogs Trust , less than half of all lost and stray dogs are reunited with their owner.

What happens if I don’t get my dog chipped?

Anyone whose dog is found not to be carrying a microchip, or whose microchip isn’t registered to their current keeper, will be given 21 days to get it sorted. If you don’t, you face a £500 fine. Police officers, animal wardens and other officials will be equipped with microchip scanners to check stray dogs, badly-behaved dogs, and potentially to do spot checks on dogs being walked by their owners, just as vets do now for injured strays.

What about puppies?

Most dogs need to be microchipped by 8 weeks of age, so the breeder or retailer has to have them chipped; as the purchasers, it is your responsibility to make sure that the database is updated with your details. The fee for this is usually £10-20, but failure to do so can be much more expensive! There are a range of different databases in use, so it’s important to check which database the microchip is recorded on. Fortunately, if the breeder can’t remember, we can always scan the chip and then check who it’s registered with for you.

The only exception is for puppies who have been tail-docked and certified as a working animal – these dogs have to be chipped by 12 weeks of age.

Are there any other exemptions?

Yes – if your dog has a health condition that means they cannot be safely microchipped, us as vets (but not you) can certify this on a government form; the government will then issue an exemption certificate. This isn’t going to affect a lot of dogs though – the main reason to avoid microchipping is in those dogs who suffer from severe clotting disorders (e.g. von Willibrand’s Disease).

Does the microchip prove ownership?

No – under the new laws, it is the dog’s keeper who is responsible for the microchip, and for the dog’s behaviour. It is therefore their details that are recorded, whether or not they are the legal owner.

What happens if a microchip goes wrong?

There are three ways a chip can go wrong; the most common is that the chip moves under the skin (called “migration”). This is pretty common, but usually they only move a few inches. Occasionally, they go much further, but usually without problems. Under the new laws, if a chip migrates so far that it is difficult to find, it is the keeper’s responsibility to have a new one inserted.

Secondly, it can simply stop working properly. This is rare, but does occur sometimes. In these cases, a new microchip is implanted, and registered to the keeper.

Finally, and most rarely of all, a chip may cause a local reaction or a haematoma (bleeding under the skin). This is very rare, but does occasionally happen, especially in dogs with mild clotting disorders. These reactions often clear up on their own, but it is important to get it checked by us.

All of these malfunctions or reactions need, by law, to be reported – normally, we will do it, using Veterinary Medicines Directorate’s Adverse Microchip Reactions system.

What about cats, rabbits and other pets?

Any animal large enough (cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas etc) can be microchipped. It isn’t a legal requirement, but it’s still a really good idea – it makes it far more likely you’ll find them again if they do get lost or stolen!

As we take microchipping very seriously we are pleased to offer microchipping with our nurses for just £10.00 until the end of April 2016*.

Please call us now on 0117 33 55 999 to make an appointment, so you don’t miss out on this offer.

For a great plan on routine booster vaccinations, parasite control and health checks (along with microchip, neutering, Hills pet food discounts) and much, much more please check out the Active Health Club.

*Terms and Conditions apply.