Microchipping for identification Print E-mail
News - Rubrieke
Tuesday, 26 July 2016 05:50
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Dr Liesel van der Merwe is a small animal medicine specialist. Send her your questions: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Dr Liesel van der Merwe

A microchip implant is a permanent form of pet identification. The microchip itself has no internal energy source, so it will last the life of your pet. The implant is a glass-encapsulated microchip designed to be implanted into living flesh.

The device consists of a radio frequency identification integrated circuit (a microchip), a capacitor and an antenna, sealed in a capsule of medical-grade glass. The glass capsule is partially coated in a substance to encourage the formation of tissue to prevent migration within the body. The implant is designed to remain permanently embedded under the skin.

Chips are placed under the skin, usually between the shoulder blades or on the left side of the neck. A large injection needle is used, but the animals experience relatively little discomfort; no more than a normal injection as it is generally the substance injected that stings rather than the needle prick itself.

When a scanner is brought within the implant’s range, the scanner emits a radio signal that stimulates the implant, causing it to emit its own radio signal in response. That signal is picked up by the scanner and converted into a unique identification number that can be looked up in a data base to identify and contact the owner.

The microchip implant does not have GPS capability to locate a missing pet, nor does it use a satellite. The read range on a typical implant is about 15–30 cm, so a scanner would have to be very close to an animal to read the implanted chip. 

When shelter staff members find a stray animal, they first check to see if the animal is wearing a collar. If there is no collar, workers run a scanner over the animal's body to look for a microchip implant.

The International Standards Organization (ISO) has approved and recommended a global standard for microchips. The ISO tests are carried out by the International Committee for Animal Recording, which is recognised by the Federation of European Companion Animals Veterinary Association and World Small Animal Veterinarian Association.

So, if a dog that was implanted with an ISO standard microchip in the US travels to Europe with its owners, the ISO standard scanners in Europe would be able to read the dog's microchip. If the dog was implanted with a non-ISO microchip and the ISO scanner was not a universal, the dog's microchip might not be detected or be read by the scanner.

The ISO standard frequency is 134.2 kHz. Forward-reading scanners only detect 134.2 kHz (ISO standard) microchips, but will not detect 125 kHz or 128 kHz (non-ISO standard) microchips. Universal scanners, also called forward- and backward-reading scanners, detect all microchip frequencies.

In South Africa there are three main suppliers of ISO-approved microchips and scanner: Identipet®, Backhome® and Fiver Star®.

Animal shelters and veterinary clinics can choose from several microchip manufacturers and scanners. Microchip scanners are relatively expensive, and it is often too expensive to keep one or more of each type. This problem can be solved by the use of universal microchip scanners, which are readily available.

The microchip number is only of value if there is a good database behind it. Some animal microchips are just used to identify the animal and link it to a passport or movement certificate. 

For lost and found purposes there needs to be an up-to-date accessible database. Each manufacturer maintains its own database (or has it managed by someone else). Although the present technology microchip itself does not contain your pet's medical information, some microchip registration databases will allow you to store that information in the database for quick reference.

Although it’s very rare, microchips can fail. Problems with the scanners are also not common, but could occur. Human error, such as improper scanning technique or incomplete scanning of an animal, can also lead to failure.

Some of the animal-related factors that can make it difficult to detect a microchip include: animals that won't stay still while being scanned; the presence of long, matted hair at or near the microchip implantation site; excessive fat deposits in the region of implantation; and a metal collar (or a collar with a lot of metal on it).

If emigrating, contact the country of origin to determine their requirements regarding microchips as well as vaccinations and certificates. Alternatively, you can contact an experienced animal shipper who is well-versed in the processes and regulations affecting animal shipment.

I still advise a collar and tag as well, because then anyone who picks up your pet will be able to contact you. If the pet loses its collar, then the microchip is a lifeline. All vets and shelters have scanners and will scan all lost animals.


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