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Microchips and Lost Pets

As a veterinarian, I get asked all the time “How many pets do you have?” Sometimes, I feel like saying “Thousands” because I truly feel that I am responsible for each and every pet that comes in to Tampa Veterinary Hospital for care. But the practical answer is five. My husband and I love our 3 dogs and two birds.  We both know that even with my providing the best of medical care to them, eventually we will lose them to old age or possibly to an inoperable condition. However, I refuse to suffer the early loss of one of my pets if they escape or become lost- which is why all of my pets have microchips.

A pet’s microchip is about the size of a grain of rice, and is programmed with a unique identifier which links to your pet’s name and your contact information. If your pet is found, any veterinary hospital or animal shelter can scan for the chip. When the chip is scanned, we can search the database and contact the owner using the data we find.

At Tampa Veterinary Hospital, we often have good Samaritans bring stray pets to us to check for microchips. We’re always hopeful, but often disappointed when the stray pet is found not to have a microchip. Even worse is when a pet has a microchip, but the microchip is not linked to the owner’s contact information, or the contact information is outdated.  Conversely, when we find a properly registered microchip- we are successful 100% of the time in returning the pet to their home. I can recall one instance where we returned a lost dog to their home within 30 minutes. A microchip helped return one of my pets who escaped- so it can happen to anyone.

Several years ago, we had some maintenance done on the lawn sprinkler system at our home. When the repairman left, he forgot to close the gate to the back yard. My husband returned home from work, and of course, let the dogs out to go do their thing. If you know Jack Russell Terriers, they’re adventurous. They love to run. Finding the open gate, they vanished into the neighborhood, and beyond.

He quickly found one of our dogs- TJ – at a neighbor’s house and was relieved he was OK. But where was Tally-Ho? He scoured the neighborhood, plastered signs everywhere with no immediate luck. He called emergency vets, shelters, everywhere Tally-Ho could possibly show up. We were worried we’d never see our 10 year old Tally-Ho again, who we had since she was a puppy.

Two days went by. We were devastated. Then, the phone rang. It was an animal hospital in Temple Terrace, more than 7 miles from home. A good Samaritan had found Tally-Ho and brought her in to be scanned for a microchip. The animal hospital called the microchip company, got our contact information and called us. Within an hour, we had our Tally-Ho back at home. We’ll never know who picked her up or where, but we’re thankful to that person, and that we had her microchipped. The only reason she found her way home was the microchip. I’ve seen dozens of news stories about pets who were presumed lost for good after weeks, months or years who have been returned home thanks to a microchip. Recently, an Ocala woman was reunited with her dog who was found more than 1,000 miles away in Michigan, two years after the pet was lost. This reunion was possible because of a microchip. Watch the video of the reunion. I’ll bet you’ll cry.

Tally-Ho could have been a sad statistic. The American Humane Association estimates that close to ten million dogs and cats are lost or stolen each year. Recently, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) found that around 22% of lostdogs taken to animal shelters were ever reunited with their rightful families. That number drops to less than 5% for cats. But for pets with microchips, those numbers jump by 238% for dogs and 2000% for cats!

Placing a microchip in your pet is similar to them getting a vaccination. It is safe, relatively painless and affordable. It’s also the best way to improve your odds of finding your pet if they’re lost or stolen. There’s lots of social media pages dedicated to helping owners find their lost pets, and some have a fair amount of success- but nothing- and I mean nothing- is better than a microchip.

Not all microchip companies are the same. Some require you to pay to register the chips on an annual basis, other companies have lifetime registration. Make sure you know what your responsibilities are when you microchip your pet. Remember, too, if you move or change phone numbers, you need to update this information with the microchip company. At Tampa Veterinary Hospital, we can walk you through the entire process of microchipping your pet, including the registration process. We offer and recommend the Save This Life microchip- which uses the power of Google to connect found pets with their owners. Ask us for more details.

If you have any questions about microchips, how they work and the type of chips we offer, please call us. This small investment can go a long way to prevent a broken heart.

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