How Pet Microchipping Works

Implanting Microchips in Pets

A vet will usually implant a microchip between the shoulder blades of a pet.
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Some pet owners are squeamish about idea of a microchip implant. You might worry that it will be a painful procedure for the animal. But it's not. The procedure doesn't even require anesthesia (though some vets use a local anesthetic). The pet won't suffer at all from the implantation -- or at least as little as one might suffer from a routine shot.

A veterinarian uses a hypodermic needle to implant the microchip, which is why the pain Fido or Fluffy feels is similar to pain of a vaccination shot. And many pet owners agree that the benefits of a microchip far outweigh the temporary discomfort during implantation. Even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) contends that the pain of the procedure for the animal is minimal compared to the consequences of it getting lost [source: Springen].


Certain state and local laws govern microchip implantation. Many of these laws specify that only a licensed veterinarian can implant microchips into animals.

The American Kennel Club Companion Animal Recovery group (AKCCAR) explains on its Web site what to expect when a vet implants a microchip. Before the vet does anything, he or she should use a microchip scanner to ensure the pet doesn't already have an implant. If it does, that means the pet already has an owner to whom it needs to be returned.

When a veterinarian receives a microchip, the manufacturer has already encoded a unique identification number into the device. Typically, the microchip comes inside a needle and applicator in a bag with the identification number on the label. The AKCCAR needle includes a retractor handle that connects to the applicator for easy implantation. The vet gathers flesh between the shoulder blades of the animal, inserts the needle and pulls the retractor handle back. This simple action effectively releases the microchip, which stays in the pet permanently.

Rest assured the process also won't put too much stress on your pocketbook. Although prices vary depending on the vet, a typical implantation costs between $25 and $65 (in addition to registration fees). Distributors of microchips are quick to remind consumers that these prices pale in comparison to the costs of printing neighborhood signs and paying rewards.

However, this implantation process alone only gives the pet a number, which is meaningless if the owner fails to register the pet. On the next page, we'll find out how animal shelters use this number to find the pet's owner.