The Benefits and Drawbacks of GPS Dog Chips

New dog chips make finding a lost dog easier than ever before, due to advances in radio-frequency identification (RFID) microchips and global positioning system (GPS) tracking systems. Each technology offers distinct advantages and disadvantages to owners. Both are superior to the traditional "Lost Dog" ads and signs. Since dogs whose owners cannot be found may be euthanized at a shelter, microchips and GPS devices save many lives each year by reuniting dogs with their owners.

How a Microchip Works

A microchip is a grain-sized transponder, programmed with your dog's identification number and injected under the loose skin over the shoulder. A chip scanner or wand transmitting low-frequency radio waves is passed over your dog if found. A tiny antenna in the microchip picks up the signal, decodes your dog's identification number and sends it to a readout window. The number is entered into an electronic database so you can be notified of your dog's whereabouts.

Advantages of Microchip Implants

  • Permanently implanted, they cannot fall off and get lost, like collars with tags.
  • Microchip insertion is quick, causing very little discomfort-no more than a vaccination.
  • Microchips are enclosed in tiny tubes made of soda lime glass, which is compatible with living tissue.
  • Microchips emit radio waves at a frequencies much lower than those of AM broadcast stations that are approved by the federal government.

Disadvantages of Microchip Implants

  • A universal scanner or wand is yet to be developed, so some systems may not be able to read your dog's type of microchip.
  • Databases may be limited to one locale.
  • Your dog must be found in order for a microchip implant to assist in returning your dog to you.
  • Microchips may cause inflammation in some dogs.

Note: Opponents of microchips claim that studies indicate microchips are a direct cause of cancer. Proponents of microchips counter that there is no conclusive evidence proving a direct link. Studies do indicate that inflammation from any source, including microchips and vaccinations, may lead to cancer in some dogs, but in rare cases. Important research is ongoing.

How GPS Tracking Devices Work

A common misconception is that microchips are GPS-tracking devices. This is not true-microchips are passive implants, activated only once your dog is found. In contrast, GPS devices are actively linked to real-time satellite receivers or cell-phone modems. Worn outside your dog's body, GPS tracking devices, the size of a business card, transmit your dog's exact locale-and even directions how to get there-back to you once you "call" or text the device. They can also alert you when your dog strays.

Advantages of GPS Tracking Devices

  • GPS devices can locate your dog from most any locale.
  • GPS devices can direct you in real time as you locate your dog.
  • No insertion is required; your dog usually wears a GPS device attached to a collar.

Disadvantages of GPS Tracking Devices

  • GPS tracking devices are relatively more expensive than microchips, and some require monthly subscriptions.
  • Some areas have little or no cell phone coverage or Internet connectivity.
  • GPS units may be too big and heavy for small dogs to wear.
  • Attached to collars, GPS devices can be lost along with them.