Ask the RV Vet
With Dr. Deanna Tolliver, M.S., DVM
Last week, I shared some RV safety tips for your pets. Because getting your pet microchipped is so important, I’ll elaborate on that this week.
First, a story:
Merlin was a friendly black cat who lived with the Scotts for about three years before he disappeared. About a week later, the Scotts were told about a black cat found dead on the nearby interstate. Assuming it was Merlin, they quit searching.
Fast forward two years. A client came to my clinic with a cat he’d found. Following clinic protocol, we scanned the cat for a microchip, noted the number and called the microchip company. Turns out, it was Merlin! He had somehow managed to travel about eight miles from home. The Scotts were thrilled to have their furry friend back.
There are thousands of such happy reunion stories. And they all have one thing in common: the pet was microchipped.
What is a microchip? It’s a small transmitter, about the size of a grain of rice, that’s implanted under the skin of a dog or cat. When a special scanner is passed over the chip it’s activated and transmits a unique 10-digit number. The shelter or veterinary clinic then calls the company associated with the chip, and the owner is then contacted.
A microchip does not have a battery, does not need to be recharged, and unlike a collar ID tag will not fall off or become unreadable with age. It’s not a GPS; you can’t track your lost dog with a microchip. They cost about $45 (some businesses may also charge for an office call).
Implanting the chip doesn’t require anesthesia. It’s implanted just under the skin between the shoulder blades. Most dogs and cats are not even aware of the process. Often, the chip is implanted when a pet is anesthetized for another reason (spay, neuter, dental, etc).
There are several different brands of microchips (Avid and Home Again, for example). Initially, this was a problem because not all scanners could read all the chips. That’s no longer an issue because of universal scanners. Almost all animals shelters, humane societies and veterinarians have one.
Remember though: getting the microchip is only the first step. You must REGISTER your pet with the company that makes the chip. This usually involves a little paperwork and/or enrollment online. After that, if your contact information changes, it’s critical to update the information.
The ASPCA estimates that more than 10 million dogs and cats are lost every year. Furthermore, one in three will get lost at some point. If your dog is NOT microchipped, there’s about a 22 percent chance that you will ever see him again. Those odds jump to 52 percent when microchipped. If your cat is not microchipped, there’s only a two percent chance for a reunion. That jumps to 38 percent when microchipped.
Last week, we asked you if your dog and/or cat was microchipped. It turns out, RV Travel readers are on the ball: 81 percent of their dogs and cats have a chip. It’s estimated that in the U.S., only 26 percent of pets are microchipped. Compare that to the U.K., where almost 90 percent of dogs have microchips. Why the difference? Since April 2016 the law mandates that all dogs in the U.K. must be microchipped.
Finally, although microchips are a great option for pet identification, ID tags on collars are still important. Here’s why: Neighbors at home or near the RV park would very unlikely not have a scanner. An RV Travel reader named Janet offered a great tip: when staying at a new campground, attach a paper key tag to your pet’s harness or collar with your site number on it.
Losing a pet is heartbreaking. Please consider getting your pet microchipped if you haven’t already.
I would love to hear your microchip stories, and welcome your questions on any RV pet issues!
Dr. Deanna welcomes your questions. Email her at YourRVvet@gmail.com
Dr. Deanna Tolliver has been a full-time RVer for a little more than 3 years, although she has been an RVer for several more. She pulls a fifth wheel with her 1-ton dually truck. Her travel companions include 4 small dogs (3 Chihuahuas: Tootie, Chiquita, and BooBoo, and a Yorkie, Janie), and a 36-year-old Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot named Toby. She has a BS and MS in biology and zoology, respectively, and a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Missouri, Columbia. She owned a veterinary hospital for many years and recently handed over the reins to a new owner. Her hobbies include sewing, especially quilting, crafts, reading, and writing.
I chip all my furbabies, but having age-lost one/adopted a new one in the past month, I got a surprise while chipping the new one. I had the vet scan my older dog and found that no matter what, her universal scanner couldn’t find the chip we KNEW was there. Had that dog been lost, there’s no way a shelter would have tried scanning as long as we did, so I got that dog double-chipped now. I don’t know what the failure rate is, but apparently these chips DO fail occasionally. The failed one was an 0A.. series, which apparently operates on non-ISO (9… series) frequencies, but a universal scanner should have found it.
If getting a new chip, I’d make sure it IS an ISO standard one, which is more likely to be readable, and (I think) the only ones used internationally if you cross borders.
The $40 price is typical at a vet (and I do encourage supporting them…), but if price would prevent you getting chips, Tractor Supply (and other places) run chip clinics for $15-20, and some towns actually sponsor $5 or even FREE chippings.
Finally, don’t fall for “subscription” registrations — you can register your chips for FREE at http://www.FreePetChipRegistry.com — they upload your registry to the AAHA shared database, and allow you to look up chips if you find a pet, all for FREE.
We have 4 cats- 1 was dropped off in our yard one night, vet said about 48 hrs old- we raised him on a bottle. When he was 9 months old our niece told us she’d be turning in her 9 month old cat to the pound, and we took that one in to provide a playmate. (Niece knew she was allergic when she got the kitten, but at 9 months it was no longer cute.) 3rd cat about 6 weeks old, fell from the undercarriage of a tractor trailer at a high rate of speed, fortunately a block from our vet hospital as he had a traumatic brain injury. Our 4th cat- again about 6 weeks old, left in the house by a burglar. Didn’t steal anything- just left us a cat.
Our HomeAlone chips contain the secondary contact (our most likely scenario is something happening while driving and it may leave both of us disabled, it is important to always have a plan B) I also have a pet tag on my key ring that says MY 4CATS R HOME ALONE and our address- just in case we have a severe accident while cats are at home and we’re on the road, to assure care for our furbabies.
We think the micro chip is great We also have dog tags with dogs name and our phone number. worked once already,
As you have learned, having a microchip and other ID can be critically important when your pet is lost. It only takes the one time. Glad it worked for you.
Thanks for writing.