Do Dog Microchips Have an Expiration Date? The Answer May Surprise You

What Are Microchips in Dogs?

Microchips are tiny implants, about the size of a grain of rice, that veterinarians place under a dog’s skin, usually between the shoulder blades. Each microchip contains a unique identification number that can be scanned by a vet or shelter to identify a lost dog and access the owner’s contact information.

Microchips are a safe and simple form of pet identification. They are implanted with a needle, like a routine shot. Once implanted, the microchip stays in place near the dog’s skin. When scanned by a microchip reader, the chip transmits the ID number which can then be used to look up the dog’s registration information in a database.

microchip implant providing permanent id if a lost dog is scanned.

Microchipping provides permanent identification that helps reunite lost dogs with their owners. Unlike collars and tags, which can fall off, microchips never go away and are considered one of the most reliable forms of ID for canines.

Do Microchips Expire?

The microchip itself does not have an expiration date or battery. Once inserted, the microchip will last for the lifetime of the dog without needing to be replaced or renewed. According to Debunking pet microchip myths, “Once implanted, the pet microchip itself never expires. It stays in your pet’s body and can be read by any universal scanner.” The microchip is made of inert, biocompatible glass and simply provides permanent identification if scanned. As noted on Microchipping 101: Answers to 7 Questions Every Pet Owner Should Know, “No. Once inserted, microchips never expire.” So while the packaging may list an expiration date, this refers to the usability of the sterile microchip applicator, not the implanted microchip itself.

Microchip Registration

A microchip itself does not contain any owner information. Instead, the microchip has a unique identification number that is paired with the owner’s contact information in a registry database. This registration links the microchip ID to the owner. As the AVMA states, “A microchip is useless without registration” (AVMA).

microchip registry linking id number to owner contact information.

Pet owners are responsible for registering their pet’s microchip and keeping their contact information current in the database. If your address or phone number changes, you must update the registry so you can be contacted if your lost pet turns up at a shelter or vet clinic. Unfortunately, studies show many pet owners fail to properly register their pet’s microchip. One study found only 58% of microchipped pets in shelters had up-to-date registry information (24PetWatch).

Scanning the Microchip

When a lost dog arrives at an animal shelter or vet clinic, the first thing staff will do is scan the dog for a microchip using a universal microchip scanner. Shelters and vet clinics keep these scanners on hand specifically for this purpose. According to ACES Microchip Scanners, shelters often use scanners like the Compact Max Scanner or Scanfindr Xtend Max that can quickly scan a dog and detect if a microchip is present.

shelter using universal microchip scanner to read dog's id.

When the scanner detects a microchip, it reads the unique identification number encoded on the chip. Shelter staff can then look up the ID number in microchip registries like HomeAgain or 24PetWatch to access the owner’s contact information on file, allowing them to reunite the lost dog with its owner. Scanners play an essential role in lost pet recovery by allowing shelters and vets to read the microchip and identify the dog’s owner information in the registry database.

Limitations of Microchips

While microchips provide many benefits for reuniting lost pets with their owners, they do have some limitations. Not all shelters or veterinary clinics routinely scan animals for microchips when they are brought in as strays. This means a microchipped pet may not be detected if the shelter does not proactively scan for a chip. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, studies indicate shelter scanning rates can range from just 8% to 53% (Microchipping FAQ).

Another limitation is that microchips can migrate within the body over time. Although the microchips are implanted under the skin, in some cases they have been found to migrate away from the original implant site. This makes them more difficult to detect when scanning. According to veterinarians, factors like a pet’s age, size, and level of physical activity can impact microchip migration over time. So even if a shelter scans, the microchip may not be located if it has moved down the body since implantation (Human Microchipping: An Unbiased Look).

Microchip Myths

There are some common myths and misconceptions about microchips in dogs. One myth is that microchips can cause cancer. However, there is no scientific evidence that microchips cause cancer. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, studies have found no link between microchips and cancer (https://www.24petwatch.com/blog/pet-microchip-myths).

Another common myth is that microchips can be hacked and used to track a dog’s location. However, microchips only contain a unique identification number and cannot transmit location data. The microchip simply provides permanent ID for the dog if it gets lost and is found. The chips do not have GPS capability or broadcast location information (MICROCHIP MYTHS).

Microchipping Your Dog

Microchipping a dog is typically done by your veterinarian. It only takes a few minutes to implant the microchip under your dog’s loose neck skin. According to MarketWatch, the cost to microchip a dog in the US ranges from $25-$50.

The microchipping procedure involves using a needle preloaded with the microchip to insert it under the dog’s skin. Once implanted, the microchip sits dormant until activated by a scanner. Most vets include the cost of implantation when quoting the price for microchipping.

Importance of Registration

Registering your dog’s microchip is absolutely crucial for it to be an effective tool. According to the AVMA, up to 90% of microchipped pets never get registered, which renders the microchip essentially useless.

Without being registered to your contact information in a microchip registry database, if your dog gets lost and is scanned for a microchip, there will be no way for the chip to identify your dog or reunite you. The microchip itself does not actually contain any identifying information – it simply has a unique ID number that links to your registration information in a database.

So if you do not complete the registration process after microchipping your dog, the implanted microchip will be useless in helping your lost dog find its way back home. It is absolutely crucial to properly register your dog’s microchip and keep that registration up-to-date if you move or change numbers.

crucial registration of microchip to owner info for reuniting lost dogs.

Checking Your Registration

It’s important for pet owners to regularly check that their dog’s microchip registration is up-to-date. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), owners should confirm their pet’s registration information annually and update it anytime there are changes like a new address or phone number.

To check on your dog’s microchip registration, you’ll first need your dog’s microchip number. If you don’t know the number, contact your veterinarian as they often keep this on file. Once you have the microchip number, you can use the AAHA’s universal online registry to look up which database your dog is registered with. Then go to that database’s website and search for your dog’s information.

It’s crucial to ensure your contact details are current so you can be reached if your dog ever gets lost. Make sure to update any changes right away, so the microchip registry has your most recent address and phone number. Keeping this information current greatly improves the chances you’ll be reunited with your pet if they become lost.

Microchipping Benefits

Microchipping provides several important benefits for pet owners. One of the biggest advantages is that it greatly improves the chances of reuniting a lost pet with its owner. According to the AVMA, microchipped pets have a much higher rate of being returned to their owners if they become lost or separated.

This is because a microchip provides a permanent form of identification even if a pet’s collar or ID tags are lost. A microchip is implanted under the pet’s skin, so it cannot fall off or be removed. Shelters and veterinary offices have scanners to detect microchips and identify the registered owner’s contact information.

As the Bergen County Veterinary Center states, “A microchip dramatically increases the chances that you and your pet will be happily reunited if they ever become lost.” Even if a pet’s microchip information is not up to date, it provides a starting point to track down the owner. Overall, microchipping is an invaluable tool to protect the bond between pets and their owners.

Sources:

https://www.bergencountyveterinarycenter.com/top-5-benefits-of-pet-microchipping.html

https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/microchips-reunite-pets-families/microchipping-faq

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