Microchips were designed to reunite pets and their owners in a simple, safe way. But is the peace of mind worth the expense?

By Sierra Burgos
August 28, 2020
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A pet microchip is a tiny capsule (about the size of a grain of rice) that can help you reunite with your dog should he ever get lost. It’s a permanent form of identification that’s implanted under your pup’s skin, typically between the shoulder blades.

The common misconception about a microchip is that it’s a tracking device. Note that a microchip does not show your dog’s location. It actually stores a unique ID number that’s linked to your contact information. If your dog ever runs off, you will have the peace of mind their microchip connects them back to you no matter where they roam.

How Does a Microchip Work?

If your missing dog is found and taken to a shelter or veterinarian, the staff will use a microchip scanner to search your dog for the microchip, which is then read by the scanner for a unique identification number. This ID number is pre-registered with your phone number or address. The microchip company then reaches out to the information you have on file with the system in order to return your four-legged friend to you. And unlike a collar, a microchip lasts your pet’s entire life. You just need to make sure the information stored in the microchip file is correct, so if you move or change phone numbers, be sure to update your records with the manufacturer of your dog’s microchip.

“Microchips provide an extra level of protection in case your pet loses their collar and tags,” says Kimberley Alboum, shelter outreach and policy engagement director for the Humane Society of the United States. “Providing your pets with both tags and a microchip can increase the chances of a reunion if your pet gets lost.”

How is Your Dog’s Microchip Embedded?

The identification capsule is completely safe for your pet, and luckily, so is the procedure to get one. There’s no anesthetic required, and it only takes a few minutes. The microchip is loaded into a sterile applicator and injected beneath the skin like a shot. It’s relatively painless—the area between the shoulder blades where it’s embedded is less sensitive than other parts of the body. Your dog will react similarly to when he is vaccinated with a normal injection at the vet’s office. Many owners get their pet a microchip at the same time they’re getting spayed or neutered, so the entire process happens while they’re asleep, anyway.

How Much Does it Cost to Microchip a Dog?

To get your dog microchipped, the average cost is around $45. This includes the actual chip, the vet procedure, and the online registration process. The size of the dog does not change the price, as the procedure is typically the same and the actual chip doesn’t vary much at all.

If your dog was adopted from a shelter, you may be in luck. He or she might already have a microchip from their past life, and many rescue organizations automatically microchip the dog before he leaves the shelter with his forever family. You can request that your vet double check for an existing microchip with a quick scan. If the dog already has one, all you’ll need to do is register their ID number with your information.

Is the Cost of Microchipping a Dog Worth it?

Think about it: a simple five-minute procedure could save you from major heartache down the road. And as a one-time expense, it’s something you won’t need to worry about for the rest of your pup’s life, unless you need to update your information. Given all the costs associated with owning a dog, the low price of a microchip isn’t a lot to pay for the knowledge that if your best bud ever wanders off, you’ll be easier to find so he can get back home safe and sound.