Microchip Identification

It is sensible to ensure permanent identification of your dog, no matter whether much loved family pet or valuable show dog.  Permanent identification is primarily designed to provide an effective means of reuniting owners with dogs that have strayed.  Other important uses are in connection with the eradication of certain inherited diseases in pedigree stock.  Also, with the recent relaxation of quarantine regulation, microchipping is mandatory for positive identification if you wish to travel abroad with your dog and to return without having to undergo quarantine.
Are there any other forms of permanent identification?
Until the introduction of the microchip some years ago tattooing was the only permanent method of positive identification. Tattooing however does have disadvantages:
  • Tattoos can fade and be difficult to decipher.
  • Tattoos can also be altered or defaced by the unscrupulous.


Traditionally the most common pet identifier is the collar and name disc (tag).  Collars and discs (tags) can be lost and it is common for the identifying tag, be it an engraved disc or other type of tag containing owner information, to become damaged, defaced or otherwise unreadable. Every year thousands of well-cared for pets end up being re-homed or put to sleep simply because their owners cannot be readily located.
What is microchipping?
A microchip is about the size of a small grain of rice.  With sterile precautions this is injected under the skin at the base of the neck.  Most veterinary practices today undertake chip implantation.
How does the system work?
The inserted chip bears a unique 15 digit code which, together with the owner’s details, are recorded on a database. Today scanners are widely available.  Most veterinary practices, many re-homing centres and charities routinely scan any animals thought to be straying.  In addition scanners are held by the police, local authorities dog wardens and ISPCA and DSPCA inspectors. Once taken into care the dog is scanned and if microchipped the unique code recorded by the scanner can be entered into the database,  from which owners details can be obtained and contact established.  Thus the dog can happily soon be returned home.
What are the disadvantages?
Microchipping, to date probably the most infallible identification system available, depends upon current owner’s details being kept on the  database.  It is essential that database is notified if owner’s contact details or address change.
Microchipping is an invisible method of identification requiring the dog to be correctly scanned with a reader.  For security reasons owner details are only available from the database by authorised enquirers, who have to enter their unique user identification.  Authorised persons include: veterinary surgeons, police, dog wardens, ISPCA inspectors etc.
Migration of the chip is a worry to many owners.  Although it is true that implanted chips can migrate from their original position, this is usually only a short distance.  Therefore it is always worthwhile ensuring that during a routine visit to your vet you have your dog scanned to check that the chip is readily readable.
What happens if the microchip cannot be read?
It is important that the dog is scanned carefully to make sure that the chip has not moved.  If it has relocated, a note should be made of its current position.  This is particularly important if you intend travelling abroad using a pet passport.
On very rare occasions, despite careful searching and using different scanners, a few chips have failed to be revealed.  Under these circumstances another chip can be inserted.  This is certainly advisable if you do intend travelling abroad with your pet.
If I have a new chip inserted, what happens if the other one suddenly becomes readable?
It is important that the original code is not eliminated from the database and that up-to-date owner details are maintained for both chips.  Then, should on a subsequent scanning, the original chip come to light the owner can still be located.  This is especially important under the pet passport scheme since if the microchip number cannot be read, and positive identification established, the dog has to undergo quarantine.