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Tech pets

Microchips hold more info than a dog tag

A friend’s dog is a herder—when that dog is on the porch alone, she plants herself by the front door to make sure that no one from the family escapes. Other dogs are sprinters—one careless whiff of freedom, and off they run, dizzy with excitement. It just takes a moment of inattentiveness or an act of nature for a pet to wander (or dash) away—and we’ve all seen those heart-wrenching posters hung by those searching for a beloved lost dog or cat.

What can you do to increase the chances your lost pet would be returned? Make sure your dog or cat is wearing tags or a collar with identification—that’s the first place most folks who found a pet would look. On the tag, put at the minimum a phone number with area code and the name of your city. Some people may be comfortable also listing the pet’s name, address, or owner’s first name as well; others, because of safety or privacy concerns, may choose not to. Once a month check your pet’s tags to make sure the clasps are tight and the information is still legible.

Microchipping is another option—and can provide a way of identifying a pet who has lost a collar or tags. The microchip is a tiny transponder about the size of a grain of rice. The chip, which contains a unique identification number, is implanted under the skin between the animal’s shoulder blades, usually at a veterinarian’s office or animal shelter. Although implanting the chip (via a syringe) is relatively painless (no more than a routine injection) some owners may choose to have it done while the pet is under anesthesia to be neutered or spayed.

When a lost pet turns up at a veterinarian’s office or animal shelter, technicians use a small hand-held scanner to see if a microchip is present. If so, the transponder numbers will provide the animal care professional the information needed to contact the chip manufacturer’s registry to reunite the pet with its owner.

Updating your pet’s electronic bio
Once a microchip is implanted in a pet, it’s the human owner’s responsibility to register the transponder’s unique number and the pet with the chip’s manufacturer. For a one-time or annual membership fee, each chip company maintains the contact information that can be used to reconnect the pet with its human owner. So it’s important to keep the registry contact information up-to-date if you move or change your phone number.

Chips shouldn’t replace collar tags
Be aware that microchips aren’t foolproof, and not every scanner can read the chips from all manufacturers. Wearing a collar with tags is still a good idea even with a microchipped pet.

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