A pet going missing, running away or being stolen are a pet owner’s worst nightmares. A registered microchip is a vital tool in the case of missing pets. When found, the pet is scanned using a reader. If a microchip is detected, the furry friend can be returned home soon. Pets must always have a microchip when they are entered into a show or taken abroad.
An ID chip, or microchip, is a capsule roughly the size of a grain of rice (measuring approx. Ø1.4*8.5 mm), containing electronic parts. A layer covering the capsule/ampule enables the chip to attach itself to tissue, forming a connective tissue capsule. The chip is inserted in place using a needle-like, sterile tool designed specifically for this purpose. Microchips come in a variety of sizes. The same chips work with different animals, such as cats, dogs or rabbits. A kitten can be chipped young, at 8–12 weeks, for instance alongside vaccination. The procedure itself is similar to vaccination; the chip is inserted under the skin on the back of the animal’s neck. The chip stays under the skin as long as the veterinarian ensures the chip does not come out with the needle, or that the chip is not placed on the cat’s fur (as can happen with long-haired cats).
Inserting the chip might be slightly painful and the insertion point might bleed a little. On the other hand, some pets might not notice anything. However, microchipping an aggressive cat may be difficult, or downright impossible, meaning that it is safer to perform chipping during e.g. castration. In x-rays, the chip will be visible as a capsule the size of a grain of rice. Sometimes the chip can be felt through the cat's skin. When performed by an experienced, trained expert, microchipping should be harmless for a pet.
The chip’s functionality is confirmed by checking that it works by responding with a number sequence. The 15-digit sequence is a sort of identification code for the pet. However, it is not the same as the pet’s registration number, but rather a number sequence coded by the chip’s manufacturer, compliant with international standards. The sequence can only be read with a specifically designed reader, which transmits a low radio frequency that activates the chip, which itself has no energy source.
Since the chip can move under the pet’s skin, it is recommended to scan from head to tail, in case the chip is not found at the back of the neck. The ID chip should last for the animal’s entire lifetime, although they can break due to injuries to the chip location or surgical procedures. A veterinarian should check the microchip at every visit to confirm the chip’s and the owner’s information, including right of ownership.
A chip is useless without registration, since the chip itself only contains a number sequence. After ID-marking an animal, it must be immediately registered in a database. This prevents possible misuse in cases such as disappearances. During registration, the chip number is given and the owner's contact information is attached to it. It is recommended to register a pet in several databases, improving the chance and speed of finding the owner. Animal shelters etc. can access certain databases at any time of day, whereas others are only accessible during business hours.
Paperwork filled out during registration should be stored with your health card or registration book together with one chip number sticker. Other stickers should be stored in case you need to apply for a passport for your pet. Information about which register the chip is entered should also be stored in the same place. This information is important, since correctness of the register information is always the pet owner's responsibility.
There are four registers in use in Finland, which anyone can check to see if an animal’s chip has been registered. Information in the register about pet owners can only be accessed by register administrators, who decide to whom and under what terms should information about owners be disclosed. The chip number must be treated like one’s own personal ID, since the number can verify that the pet in question is yours when picking it up from the person who found it.
There is also an ongoing project in Finland called Miljoona Mikrosirua (A Million Microchips), whose goal is to provide affordable microchipping and registration with the help of business partners. The chips have been donated by municipalities, companies and organizations, among others. Microchipping events are organized in Finland at least bi-monthly. No reservations are needed and payments are done in cash. Microchipping specialists trained by veterinarians perform the insertion and the information is saved into a register.
Text by Julianna Hautoniemi
Originally published in Sacred Birmans in Finland association’s member magazine, issue 1/2019.