Pets are a source of unconditional love and unmatched companionship. And it is our responsibility as owners to take supreme care of them. A huge number of pets are lost in the US every year and only a handful of them are reunited with their owners. The rest of them are either sent to shelters where they can be put up for adoption or euthanization.
Microchipping can be a pivotal step in this scenario and the rate of recovering lost pets can be increased with the help of this small and inexpensive piece of tech. Apart from that, smartphones today come with NFC technology and we would like to know if this novel feature can read the microchips implanted in your pet or not
So, in this article, we deal with some of the frequently asked questions regarding microchips and how they can be scanned for retrieval of owner information.
Can you scan a dog chip with your phone?
This is unfortunate but no. A smartphone (Both Android and iOS) cannot and will never be able to scan and read a microchip inserted in a dog or any other pet. There are no apps on the App Store (iOS) and Google Play Store (Android) that can do the job of scanning and reading a pet’s microchip.
When you search on the internet, you will come across a bunch of fake apps that claim to scan and read a pet’s microchips on their own without any accessory device. You should be aware of such fraudulent apps. They often show suspicious activities on your phone and can permanently damage your phone.
However, you can get a scanner from Amazon or other sites at an inexpensive price to scan and read the chip inserted in your dog. These scanners are designed to connect to your iOS or Android smartphone via Bluetooth or a cable connection to display the information on their respective app.
What is a Pet Microchip?
According to Statistics by American Kennel Club, one in three pets gets lost at some point in their lives and this is a valid reason to do something about it. This is where Pet Microchip comes in.
A pet microchip is an identification device or transponder that works on radio frequency and carries a unique ID number. The size of a pet microchip is roughly the size of a rice grain and when it is scanned using a scanner by a vet or shelter, it sends or transmits the ID number to the device screen. A pet microchip has no battery, no moving parts, and doesn’t require a power source. It is injected under the loose skin located between the shoulder blades of your dog. It is almost as invasive as vaccination.
The unique identification tag or the microchip insertion won’t be of any use unless it is registered with a national pet recovery database. You will need access to a recovery service that has archived multiple microchip databases around the country. A service like AKC Reunite can be used as it is a member of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) lookup. So, it is capable of checking against hundreds of registries’ databases.
How does a Pet Microchip Work?
The sole purpose and function of a pet microchip are to store a unique identification number that is used to obtain a pet parent’s vital contact information. It is absolutely different from the GPS chip which is used for tracking and needs a power source such as a battery.
If your pet is microchipped and a microchip scanner is passed over it, the inserted microchip emits Radio Frequency (RF) signal. The signal after being received by the scanner makes the scanner read the microchip’s unique identification number. After that, the database to which the microchip is registered is called. The registry company uses that particular ID number to obtain the contact information of the pet from the pet recovery database.
In the US, most animal shelters and vet hospitals have global scanners that read pet microchips from most manufacturers. Microchips are simple passive devices because they have no internal source of power. They stay inactivated until they are scanned by a scanner. So, in a single statement, Pet Microchips work on the RFID principle.
Can NFC Read Pet Microchip?
Pet microchips are built around RFID technology. RFID is short for Radio Frequency Identification which allows the exchange of information or communication between a scanner (or reader) which is a powered device and a tag or microchip which is a passive tech.
NFC stands for Near Field Communication and works on the protocols of RFID. The difference is that NFC works at the higher end of frequencies (13 MHz) and can be used for a very close range of communication only. The range of operation is 4 to 10 cm for NFC.
So, you can read a pet Microchip using NFC enabled device, provided that the range is appropriate and the scanner is a good one. Since most smartphones are NFC-enabled, you might think about using them to read pet Microchips. This is however not possible with the smartphone alone. Your smartphone doesn’t have a dedicated RFID or NFC scanner hardware installed. So, you will need to connect a separate RFID reader to your Android or iOS smartphone to get the job done. You can connect using a cable or via Bluetooth.
Can I read Pet Microchip with my Phone?
Smartphones today are capable of lots of newer things that weren’t possible a few years back. Your smartphone has a huge number of sensors and features that make it a complete computational device most of the time. But, when it comes to reading pet microchips, it cannot do it. There is no reader or scanner hardware installed on the system of your phone to do it. Your phone might be NFC-capable but still cannot read the chip inserted in your pet due to the absence of related hardware.
There are some apps that you can find on the respective app stores of iOS and Android that claim to read pet microchips but they are fake and you should stay away from them. They might do severe damage to your phone and data. You can check the reviews on those apps to make sure about the genuineness of the app. No app can scan or read RFID tags unless your smartphone has a built-in RFID scanner or reader.
You will need to buy a genuine scanner or reader device (costs around $10 to $20 on Amazon) that connects with your smartphone via Bluetooth or cable to scan the microchip installed or inserted in your pet.
Do Vets Scan Microchips for free?
When a lost pet or animal is found and taken to a vet clinic or a shelter, the first thing they do is scan the pet for a microchip for owner information. If a microchip is found, they will retrieve the information from the microchip registry database. If the information is correct, then they can quickly find the owner of the pet.
Most of the vets and pet shelter homes in the US have RFID scanners that can be used to scan the microchip inserted in the pet and retrieve information about the owner of the pet. In most cases, vets will do the scanning for free and you do not need to shell out a single cent to do it.
How do you tell if a pet has a Microchip?
The microchip inserted in a pet cannot be detected using your hands. It is simply not possible to know about it without using a dedicated device or scanner.
You can tell if a pet has a microchip or not by using a good RFID scanner to scan the microchip. Vets often put or insert these microchips between the front legs of the pet or between the shoulder blades when the skin is loose. So, you need to scan that particular part of the body to detect the microchip and obtain the details of the pet
The size of microchip installed in a pet is roughly the size of a rice grain and you cannot feel it with your bare hands. The only way to find whether a microchip has been implanted in the pet or not is by scanning with a good RFID scanner that works in the frequency range of the microchip installed.
Is it painful to Microchip a Pet?
The microchip is very small (around 12 mm) and can be injected or implanted under the skin using a hypodermal needle. It is no more invasive than a vaccination and no more painful than a regular injection shot. The needle is slightly larger than the usual injection needle but the procedure is the least painful.
There is no requirement for surgery or anesthesia for the implantation of a microchip and it can be done in a few minutes during a route visit to the vet’s office. If your dog or pet is already under anesthesia for a different medical procedure like spaying or neutering, the microchip can be inserted while they are still unconscious under the effect of anesthesia.
The microchip device is quite affordable given its importance. The average microchip for a dog costs between $25 and $60 depending on the location (where you get the procedure done like a chipping clinic, pet supply store, or a vet office) and the model of the microchip. There are some shelters around the US that implant microchips in every animal they bring in their care homes at zero cost.
In some situations, the registration fees are included in the total cost of the implantation but for most cases, you will need to pay an extra charge for registration. This will list your contact information in a reputed pet recovery database or registry. The cost of registration is around $20.
What does a Microchip look like for a Pet?
Microchips that are implanted in pets are tiny in size and look like a rice grain in volume. These Microchips for pets are passive devices which means they do not have a power source of their own. Thus they are completely harmless and are totally safe for your pet.
How do I find the Owner of a Pet Microchip?
If you have found a lost dog or some other pet and you want to find the real owner of the pet, you can scan the microchip inserted in the pet.
To check whether the found pet has a microchip planted in it or not and retrieve the information about the owner, you need an RFID scanner. If you have one, you can scan the pet between the legs or around the shoulder and it will start transmitting signals to the scanner if there is a microchip present inside the pet.
If you don’t have an RFID scanner with you, you can take the pet to the nearest vet office or pet shelter home as they often have RFID scanners with them. You can request them to scan the pet for you to obtain information about the owner. Normally, they will do it for free. This is how you can find the owner of a lost pet via microchip information.
Do you have to pay a monthly fee for a Microchip?
Once the microchip is implanted or injected under the skin of your pet, you won’t have to pay a monthly fee for it. The only money you will have to pay is for the implantation process and registration of the microchip in the databases. This is a one-time investment and the microchip will function for the lifetime of the pet.
Can a Microchip be removed from a Pet?
Yes, it is possible to remove an already implanted microchip from a pet but it is not recommended to do so. Expert vets say that removing a microchip inserted in a pet is a risky clinical process and requires serious surgery as the location of the chip is not fixed under the skin. So, it is simply not worth putting your pet at so much risk and pain.
Besides, microchips are passive and harmless devices and they don’t inflict any sort of damage or pain to your pet. They won’t cause any infection or poisoning either. Once a microchip is installed, it can last for over 20 years when it comes to optimum functioning. So, this covers the lifetime of your pet (in most cases).
How long does a Pet Microchip Last?
A pet microchip has a quite long lifetime of around 20 to 30 years when it comes to functioning. The microchip starts degrading in terms of sending signals after that.
This is a good thing as it will cover the life of your pet and you will not need to remove it from time to time to insert a new one. The removal process requires surgery which can be risky for the pet.
In the United States, you are not bound by the law to implant a microchip in your pet but it is a responsible act to do so. Statistics show that 25 percent of lost pets are reunited with their owners and 80 percent of the lost pets are never found and thus end up in the shelters and are often euthanized. This is a bad thing. Microchipping can improve these statistics preventing the death of a huge number of pets.