Canine Microchip Controversies Demystified

A canine microchip is currently a subject of controversy, and this article should clear some of the surrounding controversy.

What is a Microchip?

Firstly, a microchip is a computer chip about the size of a grain of rice that is implanted under your pet's skin, usually between the shoulder blades, via a hypodermic needle. This silicon chip with a tiny antenna is encased within a biocompatible glass. Tissue around the microchip reacts to the foreign body by encasing it with tissue, preventing it from traveling to other parts of the body. The chip stores an identification number, unique to only your pet, which will transmit the number to an appropriate scanner when your pet is scanned.

The Frequency and Scanner Controversy

The most common chips in the US, AVID and Home Again, are based on a frequency of 125 kHz, while outside of the US, many countries use an ISO chip that emits a 134 kHz frequency. In the beginning, when microchipping first became popular, there were about four different frequencies from four different companies. This became a problem because scanners could only pick up the microchip ID number from the company they had been issued from. Right now, vet pharmaceutical companies are teaming up with microchip manufacturers, and they are trying to correct this problem by giving shelters and vets scanners that read all four.

The Cancer Controversy

There has only been one published report of a suspected relation to microchips and tumors, which was still rather nebulous, as the study was done with lab mice (which tend to be more sensitive to research). There is no conclusive evidence linking microchips and tumors. There was a study in UK done, where more than half the canine population was microchiped. In this 10 year study, there were only 2 tumors reported, and one of which may have been related to multiple rabies shots.

The Data Base Controversy

The biggest problem with microchipping is the data base issue. Even if your pet has a microchip and is scanned, without properly stored numbers and access to a database, your pet may be lost forever. When a shelter or vet finds a pet with a chip, they write down the code and plug it into a database. Most databases sell the chips to a vet, and will identify where the dog had been injected with the chip. It is your veterinary clinic's job to record the number of your pet's unique number. However, if you are willing to pay for the service, some databases will record your dog's number, so you will have back up. This is highly recommended, especially if you move around a lot and need to change clinics (you will always have easy access to your pet's ID number). Also, you will be promptly notified if someone has found your lost dog.