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How Do Dog Microchips Work?

How Do Dog Microchips Work? | BetterVet

Is your dog a beloved member of your family? Of course! Microchips can save you the anguish of searching for hours on end when your furry friend goes missing.

As a veterinarian, I've experienced the relief in pet parents' voices when they find out their dog has been found safe. Scanning a dog's microchip is the most common way to reunite dogs with their owners. Around 75% of microchipped dogs can be reunited with their families, making it worth considering microchipping your dog.

Key Takeaways:

  • Microchips are small transponders implanted under the dog's skin and contain a unique registration number.
  • Microchipping offers permanent identification, reliable reunification, a quick and simple procedure, and non-invasiveness.
  • It is a responsible choice that enhances a dog's safety and increases the chances of a successful reunion if they become lost.

What’s a Microchip for Dogs?

Microchips are small transponders that can be implanted in your dog's skin as identification. About the size of a grain of rice, they can be inserted with a quick and relatively painless injection, no anesthesia needed.

A microchip contains a registration number that can be read with a handheld scanner. This number provides access to your contact information. If your dog gets lost and ends up at a veterinary office, animal shelter, or with an animal control officer, the microchip serves as a backup form of identification, just like a collar.

How Do Dog Microchips Work? 

A microchip is a tiny transponder that uniquely identifies your dog. It's implanted under the skin and is approximately the size of a grain of rice. Microchips don't require power, batteries, or moving parts, making them safe and inert.

The process of microchipping is quick and usually doesn't cause much pain. It's a simple injection that doesn't require the use of anesthesia. For younger puppies, our veterinarians may use numbing cream and treats to distract them during the placement. Your veterinarian should check the microchip's functionality after placement and during yearly health appointments.

Once implanted, the microchip remains active for up to 25 years. It contains a unique code that can be read with a dog microchip scanner. Most veterinarians, rescue shelters, and animal control officers have microchip scanners. 

When scanned, the microchip number can be matched to a national database, which links it to an owner's contact details. This allows you to be contacted to collect your dog or approve treatment if they're injured.

Are Microchips for Dogs the Same as a GPS? 

No, microchips for dogs are not the same as GPS devices. A microchip is a transponder that can be read by a scanner, but it doesn't provide real-time location tracking like a GPS. To be contacted, you must register the microchip and your contact details on a national online database.

If you want extra security, you can choose to use both a microchip and a GPS tracking device. GPS trackers are often attached to a dog's collar or harness. However, remember that trackers can be removed, potentially leading to inaccurate information about your pet's whereabouts.

Benefits of Microchipping Your Dog

Microchipping your dog offers several advantages that ensure their safety and increase the chances of a happy reunion if they go missing. Consider the following benefits:

Permanent Identification 

A microchip provides a reliable and long-lasting form of identification. Unlike collars and ID tags that can fall off or become unreadable, a microchip stays with your dog throughout its life, significantly improving the chances of being reunited if they are lost or stolen.

Reliable Reunification

When a lost dog is found and taken to a veterinary clinic, shelter, or animal control agency, they are typically scanned for a microchip. The microchip's unique identification number can be used to retrieve your contact information from a pet recovery database. This enables a swift and direct notification process, ensuring you are informed as soon as your dog is located.

Quick and Simple Procedure 

Microchipping is a quick and easy procedure that can be done during a regular visit to the veterinarian. Most dogs experience little discomfort during the insertion, similar to receiving a routine vaccination.

Non-Invasive and Unobtrusive

Microchips are tiny devices, about the size of a grain of rice, that cause no discomfort or inconvenience once implanted. You can have peace of mind knowing that your dog carries a discreet and always-accessible form of identification.

Microchipping your dog is a responsible choice that significantly enhances their safety and increases the chances of a successful reunion if they become lost. Remember to keep your contact information up to date in the microchip database to ensure the information remains current and effective. Consult your veterinarian for more information on microchipping and to have your dog microchipped safely and professionally.

Alternatives to Microchipping

The main alternative to microchipping is using a traditional collar with an ID tag. However, collars can be removed or snapped off if a dog tries to escape. Branding and tattooing, common in other species like horses, are not used in dogs. 

GPS trackers can also be used, but they can be removed or lost, and only you can access the GPS information. Microchips can be scanned by most animal health organizations, making them a quick and easy way to reconnect you with your dog.


Microchipping your dog is a reliable and long-lasting form of identification that significantly increases the chances of being reunited if your dog goes missing. It provides permanent identification and can be easily scanned by veterinarians, shelters, and animal control officers. While it does not provide GPS tracking, it is a backup to traditional collars and ID tags.

Microchipping is a quick and simple procedure that is relatively painless for your dog. It is a responsible choice that enhances your dog's safety and offers peace of mind. Remember to keep your contact information updated in the microchip database to ensure its effectiveness. 

Schedule a veterinary check-up or virtual vet visit with BetterVet if you have any other issues with your pet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does microchipping hurt dogs?

Microchipping is a painless procedure that involves inserting a small chip under the dog's skin. The process is typically quick and causes minimal discomfort, similar to a routine vaccination. The microchip itself is tiny and designed to be well-tolerated by dogs. It provides a permanent means of identification and greatly increases the chances of reuniting lost dogs with their owners.

​​Can you feel a microchip in a dog?

No, you cannot typically feel a microchip in a dog. They are designed to be unobtrusive and should not cause discomfort or be palpable to the touch. The microchip is only detectable by using a microchip scanner, which is commonly available at veterinary clinics and animal shelters.

Where are dogs microchipped?

Dogs are typically microchipped just under the skin between the shoulder blades. This area is commonly chosen for microchipping because it is easily accessible and provides a secure location for the microchip. 

Can your dog have more than one microchip?

Yes, a dog can have more than one microchip. This can happen if the dog has moved to a different country or if their previous microchip became faulty.

Can dog microchips be seen on X-rays?

Yes, microchips can be seen on X-rays. Veterinarians often use X-rays to verify that a dog's microchip is still in place if a microchip scanner does not detect it. In such cases, the microchip company may replace it for free.

Can a dog microchip be removed?

In theory, a dog microchip can be removed, but it is a challenging and surgical process due to the small size of the device. Additionally, microchips can move within the body over time. Unless the microchip is causing infection or pain, removal is not necessary or recommended.


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