Ask the RV Vet
With Dr. Deanna Tolliver, M.S., DVM
Last week, I shared some RV safety tips for your pets. Because getting your pet microchipped is so important, I’ll elaborate on that this week.
First, a story:
Merlin was a friendly black cat who lived with the Scotts for about three years before he disappeared. About a week later, the Scotts were told about a black cat found dead on the nearby interstate. Assuming it was Merlin, they quit searching.
Fast forward two years. A client came to my clinic with a cat he’d found. Following clinic protocol, we scanned the cat for a microchip, noted the number and called the microchip company. Turns out, it was Merlin! He had somehow managed to travel about eight miles from home. The Scotts were thrilled to have their furry friend back.
There are thousands of such happy reunion stories. And they all have one thing in common: the pet was microchipped.
What is a microchip? It’s a small transmitter, about the size of a grain of rice, that’s implanted under the skin of a dog or cat. When a special scanner is passed over the chip it’s activated and transmits a unique 10-digit number. The shelter or veterinary clinic then calls the company associated with the chip, and the owner is then contacted.
A microchip does not have a battery, does not need to be recharged, and unlike a collar ID tag will not fall off or become unreadable with age. It’s not a GPS; you can’t track your lost dog with a microchip. They cost about $45 (some businesses may also charge for an office call).
Implanting the chip doesn’t require anesthesia. It’s implanted just under the skin between the shoulder blades. Most dogs and cats are not even aware of the process. Often, the chip is implanted when a pet is anesthetized for another reason (spay, neuter, dental, etc).
There are several different brands of microchips (Avid and Home Again, for example). Initially, this was a problem because not all scanners could read all the chips. That’s no longer an issue because of universal scanners. Almost all animals shelters, humane societies and veterinarians have one.
Remember though: getting the microchip is only the first step. You must REGISTER your pet with the company that makes the chip. This usually involves a little paperwork and/or enrollment online. After that, if your contact information changes, it’s critical to update the information.
The ASPCA estimates that more than 10 million dogs and cats are lost every year. Furthermore, one in three will get lost at some point. If your dog is NOT microchipped, there’s about a 22 percent chance that you will ever see him again. Those odds jump to 52 percent when microchipped. If your cat is not microchipped, there’s only a two percent chance for a reunion. That jumps to 38 percent when microchipped.
Last week, we asked you if your dog and/or cat was microchipped. It turns out, RV Travel readers are on the ball: 81 percent of their dogs and cats have a chip. It’s estimated that in the U.S., only 26 percent of pets are microchipped. Compare that to the U.K., where almost 90 percent of dogs have microchips. Why the difference? Since April 2016 the law mandates that all dogs in the U.K. must be microchipped.
Finally, although microchips are a great option for pet identification, ID tags on collars are still important. Here’s why: Neighbors at home or near the RV park would very unlikely not have a scanner. An RV Travel reader named Janet offered a great tip: when staying at a new campground, attach a paper key tag to your pet’s harness or collar with your site number on it.
Losing a pet is heartbreaking. Please consider getting your pet microchipped if you haven’t already.
I would love to hear your microchip stories, and welcome your questions on any RV pet issues!
Dr. Deanna welcomes your questions. Email her at YourRVvet@gmail.com
Dr. Deanna Tolliver has been a full-time RVer for a little more than 3 years, although she has been an RVer for several more. She pulls a fifth wheel with her 1-ton dually truck. Her travel companions include 4 small dogs (3 Chihuahuas: Tootie, Chiquita, and BooBoo, and a Yorkie, Janie), and a 36-year-old Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot named Toby. She has a BS and MS in biology and zoology, respectively, and a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Missouri, Columbia. She owned a veterinary hospital for many years and recently handed over the reins to a new owner. Her hobbies include sewing, especially quilting, crafts, reading, and writing.