Microchipping your Westie

From the 6th April 2016 it has been a legal requirement in the UK to have all dogs microchipped but is the practice safe? Leading experts across the field of veterinary practice promote and support the use of microchipping. The procedure is considered to be extremely safe and in the event of your dog getting lost or stolen it is the best way to aid their return. Thousands of dogs, and cats, are microchipped every year in the UK and only a tiny minority suffer any after effects. The most noted issue is a slight swelling at the site of insertion which usually resolves within a couple of days.

What is a pet microchip?

A pet microchip is a tiny chip that contains a registration code that is no bigger than a grain of rice. The chip is inserted under the dog’s skin usually in the nape or scruff of the neck using a needle. For those that are needle phobic this sounds quite daunting but dogs tend to have quite a thick pocket of skin in this area and the needles used are small. The experience is no different to having inoculations. The microchips do not have or need a power supply and most have a lifespan of twenty to thirty years.

What happens to the chip and how is it useful?

The chip sits in your pets neck and over time a small pocket of fibres envelope and protect it which help to hold it in place. A chip reader is used to read the data on the microchip. Veterinary practices, dog wardens, rescue centres and dog rehoming centres will usually have access to chip readers. Once the chip number has been identified it can then be checked on the pet register and the owner identified. It is believed that this will enable dogs to be reunited with their owners quickly and avoid the need for long stays in pet shelters. It has been suggested that microchipping will save several thousands of healthy dogs being euthanased every year if they can’t be rehomed.

Where do you register your Microchip?

When you first get your puppy or dog, or if you have taken your pet to the vet to have a microchip fitted, you will be given a copy of the chip’s unique code number. These are usually provided on a sheet along with a barcode. Your will be given the details of where the chip is registered which you can then go and update online. Each time you move you need to update the register.

Does a microchip need any maintenance?

No, once inserted microchips are maintenance free. You can ask your vet to check the chip at a regular check up for peace of mind.

Do Microchips fail?

It is extremely rare but not impossible for a chip to fail. In most instances this would be detected before the microchip is implanted. The vet or clinician will usually check the chip and its manufacture date before use. Periodic checks will ensure that the chip is still working. There have been reports of failure but this is often caused by reader issues or the chip having moved. There are reported cases where chips have migrated to other areas under the skin or further down the back.

As it is now a legal requirement in the UK for a dog to be microchipped vets and rescuers will check thoroughly until they find the code. The biggest risk to failure is not the chip itself but the contact records being out of date where owners have moved house or sold a pet and the records have not been changed.

Do Microchips work?

The internet is awash with tales of pets being reunited with their owners as a result of microchipping. When a lost dog is taken to a veterinary surgeon or to the dog warden a simple scan of the neck area will reveal the chip which can be checked on the register and the owners contacted. In these circumstances pets can be returned to their owners quickly. There are many heartwarming tales of pets being reunited after long periods where a routine check on a microchip has revealed that the dog in question was stolen, often where the new owners have believed they were giving a home to an unwanted pet.

How much does it cost?

The costs vary but expect to pay in the region of £25 – £40. You can also check on the UK Government website for advice on organisations that may microchip your pet without cost.

Can a dog be exempted from having a microchip?

In exceptional, health related, circumstances an exemption certificate may be possible if arranged by a vet.

Is there a penalty if a dog is found without a microchip?

When the regulations were introduced a penalty was implemented at the same time to encourage pet owners to comply. The penalty for not having your pet microchipped is currently £500.

What happens if you buy a dog that already has a microchip?

When you buy or rehome a Westie that has a microchip ask the current owner for the microchip registration documents. Update the register as soon as you bring the dog home, there may be a small charge to do this.

Lost your microchip number?

What do you do if you have lost the paperwork and don’t have a record of the microchip? The best option is to contact your veterinary practice or whoever fitted the microchip. If that is not an option ask your vet, dog warden or rescue centre to scan your pet. Be prepared to provide some form of ID.

Find out more about microchipping your Westie on the RSPCA or the UK Government websites.