Microchipping your pet
Getting your pet microchipped is the best way of making sure you’re reunited if they get lost or stolen.
We recommend that all pets are microchipped – a collar or tag can fall off or be removed, but a microchip is a more permanent way to identify your pet and keep them safe.
Microchipping during the pandemic
During the pandemic, vets are having to prioritise the sickest pets, which means that many routine procedures such as microchipping are being delayed or cancelled.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) have asked vets across the UK to prioritise urgent/essential treatment, and to comply with social distancing at all times. Sadly, this means that some practices are unable to offer their routine procedures such as neutering, vaccinations, and microchipping. If your vet is unable to microchip your pet at this time, you may want to contact some other local vets to see if they are able to help, and in the meanwhile, follow our guidance below to keep them safe. Please keep in mind that your vets will be doing their best to care for some very sick pets and will really appreciate your patience and understanding during this challenging time.
What is a microchip?
A microchip is a small radio chip (about the size of a grain of rice) that has a unique number to help identify your pet.
Microchipping your pet takes a matter of seconds, and once it has been done they can be identified using a hand-held scanner (you may have seen these at your local vets). This means that should your pet become lost, dog wardens, rescue centres and vets can look up your details to help reunite the two of you.
Do I have to get my pet microchipped?
If you have a dog, yes. Since 2016, dogs over 8 weeks old need to be microchipped by law.
The law means that:
- Any dog over 8 weeks old must be microchipped. Very small puppies or those with certain health problems can get a temporary exemption certificate from a vet, but still need to be microchipped when they are a bit bigger or healthier before it runs out .
- Owner details must be kept up-to-date and stored with an approved database company.
- Your dog must still wear a collar and tag with your contact details on when in public.
- If your dog is scanned by a dog warden and found not to have a microchip you’ll have 21 days to get them microchipped. If you don’t, you could face a fine of up to £500.
It’s not a legal requirement to have other pets microchipped, however we would always recommend you do. Cats especially like to wander and it’s easy for them to get lost if they get frightened, or get inside a vehicle by accident. Rabbits and small pets are also notorious escape artists, so getting them microchipped will help if they are found. Even unusual pets like reptiles and birds can be microchipped and for some exotic species that fall under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) rules, microchipping may be a requirement as a form of identification.
Microchipping is the best way of being reunited with your pet if you are ever separated, so we would always recommend getting your pets microchipped.
How microchipping works
Your pet’s microchip will be implanted using a needle under their skin between their shoulder blades. Only someone who has been properly trained can implant a chip. It only takes a matter of seconds to microchip a pet. When your pet is then scanned, they will have a unique number with your details stored safely.
Will microchipping hurt my pet?
No, microchipping won’t hurt your pet. It’s similar to any injection or vaccination, so will feel a lot like that to your pet. They are also made of non-reactive material so they shouldn’t cause your pet any problems throughout their life.
Microchipping is usually done when pets are awake as it’s quick and most pets barely notice. While microchipping isn’t any more painful than a simple injection, sometimes owners prefer to get this done when they are going under general anaesthetic for something else, like neutering. This does mean if your pet gets lost before then, they won’t have a chip to identify them.
For some exotic species, an anaesthetic or sedation might be needed to implant the chip. Your vet will let you know if this is the case.
Where can I get my pet microchipped?
Microchips can only be implanted by vets, vet nurses or someone who’s been specially trained in how to implant a chip. All vets offer microchipping. You might find that other places such as rescue centres or dog groomer may offer pet microchipping. Make sure if you’re not going to a vet practice that you check the person who microchips your dog is qualified.
The cost of having your pet microchipped varies. Most vets will charge a small fee. There may be a charity or event running in your local area offering microchipping at a reduced cost or even free.
Are my personal details safe on the database and who can contact me?
You supply all the details to the implanter when the microchip is put in, and they will pass these on to the microchip database company. These usually include your name, address, phone numbers and details of your pet. These are held securely and will only passed onto registered premises (such as vets, dog wardens and re-homing centres) if your pet is scanned and their number is looked up, so that you can be contacted.
What if I move house or change my phone number?
It’s important to keep your details up to date in case you and your pet are separated. If you move house or change your phone number, you’ll need to contact the database company directly and let them know your new details.
Your pet’s microchip number and contact details for the database company will be on the original paperwork you were given when you had them microchipped. If you’ve lost this, take your pet into any vets and they can scan the chip and let you know your microchip number and who to get in touch with.
There are several companies your pet's microchip can be registered with in the UK:
- Animal Microchips
- Animal Tracker
- MicroChip Central
- National Veterinary Data Service
- Pet Identity UK
- UK PETtrac.
What should I do if I re-home or sell my pet?
You don’t need to replace or remove a microchip - it is designed to last for your pet’s lifetime. To update ownership details, contact the database company to tell them you have re-homed your pet and they usually will give you a form or code to give to the new owner. This is to prevent someone from just changing your dog’s microchip details without your permission. Give the new owners these documents and the microchip number, so they can contact the database company to get their details registered.
What should I do if my pet is lost or stolen?
Phone the database company your pet’s microchip is registered with to let them know as soon as possible. They will flag your pet’s details so that if they are scanned by a vet or re-homing centre you’ll be contacted straight away. It’s also a good idea to double check your details are up to date in the system.
Can a microchip break?
Microchips are tough and hardwearing and should last for your pet's life. It’s really unlikely that the chip will break or become faulty. In very rare cases, a microchip may fail, meaning it won’t be read by a scanner anymore. Usually, the chip manufacturer will provide a replacement chip free of charge and your vet can simply place a new chip. If you are worried, a vet practice can quickly check a microchip for you and book an appointment with a vet if there any concerns.
Microchips can more commonly move a small distance away from where they are implanted but this won’t usually hurt your pet and is completely normal. The chip will still be picked up by a scanner, as all around the pet is usually scanned.
Neutering your pet
What is neutering and is it something you've considered for your pet? Read out vets' advice and why and when to get your pet neutered.
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