Microchipping pets has been around for a couple of decades, but is becoming more common in each passing year. There are a number of companies that produce microchips, which is good and bad. It is good as it gives many options and can keep costs low due to competition, but bad as not all companies use similar frequencies for their chips, so not every scanner will pick up every microchip.
The good news is that there are now scanners that pick up multiple frequencies of chips, so hopefully won't miss a pet who is microchipped.
How do the microchips work?
The chips are about the size of a grain of rice and are implanted under the skin using a needle. Once implanted, the body will produce scar tissue around the chip that holds it in place.
The chips use RFID technology (radio-frequency), so do not require an internal battery source. They are powered by the scanner when it is slide a few inches over the chip. The chip is encoded with a unique number, which the scanner picks up and then can be matched to the owners information. Using the website http://www.petmicrochiplookup.org/ the number is matched to the microchip company and then the company can be contacted to recover the the owner's information.
The most important thing besides microchipping your pet is making sure that your information is registered to the microchip number and up to date. If the pet owners information isn't linked to the number encoded in the chip, then the microchip is worthless. At our clinic, we register the owner's information for them to ensure that this step isn't forgotten.
We use HomeAgain (www.homeagain.com/) microchips at our clinic. We typically try to implant them during a pet's spay or neuter, since the pet is asleep and won't feel the needle used during implantation. However, we can also implant the chip when pets are awake, using treats to distract them while the injection takes place.
Once registered, the number is in the system for the life of the pet. There is no additional charge unless your information changes. Home Again does offer an annual renewal, which gives access to additional resources including producing fliers if your pet is lost, access to a poison control hotline, and help with transportation back home if your pet is found more than 500 miles away.
Bottom line is that a microchip will give you your best chance at finding your pet if it is lost.