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Pet Microchipping: Cost, Insurance, and Benefits

When a pet accidentally escapes home, it can be stressful. Often, when someone finds a dog or cat with no identification, such as a collar and tags, they will take it to a veterinarian to check for a microchip. A microchip is a safe and effective way to reunite pets with their owners. The tiny scannable transponder containing an identification number is implanted beneath a pet's skin to aid in locating a lost pet's owner. Although microchipping is relatively inexpensive, some pet insurance plans will cover the cost. Learn more about microchipping and how pet insurance may cover the cost.

How does a pet microchip work?

How does a pet microchip work

Microchipping pets is an excellent way to provide permanent identification. A microchip implant, also known as a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag, is usually the size of a rice grain and stored in a glass pill-shaped container. They function as transponders; when scanned with a microchip reader, the pet's identification number will display. This can then be linked to owner contact information through an extensive database.

Your pet's microchip is typically inserted just under the skin, between the shoulder blades. The microchip does not require a battery or any other power source because it only transfers data when a reader senses it.

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Microchipping is a safe procedure, and is generally painless. Your pet might feel a gentle pinch as the needle is inserted, but if you're concerned about pain, talk to your veterinarian about available options (for example microchipping while your pet is already under anesthesia for a spay or neuter procedure).

Keeping the database updated

Following the procedure, ensure the online database connected to your pet's microchip includes your current contact information. If you change your phone number or relocate, update the information as soon as possible. Some databases may be free, while others charge a yearly membership cost.

Around 10 million cats and dogs are reported lost or stolen annually in the United States. According to the Coalition for Reuniting Animals and Families, only around 23% of such animals are returned to their owners. According to the American Humane Association, one-third of all pets will be lost at least once in their lifetimes.

Are microchips compulsory?

Although no federal laws in the United States specifically require microchips, municipal, state, and county legislation may have different requirements. For instance, Hawaii is one state that has enacted legislation to mandate that pets be microchipped. Hawaii enacted this rule to reunite more lost pets with their owners, reducing the load on animal shelters.

Because microchips are essential for your pet's security, you should discuss the procedure with your veterinarian. Pets adopted from a shelter may already be microchipped, so be sure to add your information to the database.

Types of pet microchips

There are different types of pet microchips available, often differentiated according to their frequencies. In the U.S., several different microchip frequencies have been used for pet microchips. They include the following:

  • The 134 kHz chip. The 134 kHz chip was introduced to the U.S. market in 2004. The International Standards Organization, or ISO, is responsible for developing the standards for this microchip. This microchip's unique identifying code is a 15-digit numeric code that includes 0 through 9. The first three digits may consist of a manufacturer's or country code. This microchip is commonly known as the 'global standard' because all other pet microchipping manufacturers use it.
  • The 128 kHz chip. The 128 kHz chip, which debuted in 2007, is a microchip that only specific scanners can read.
  • The 125 kHz chip. Until recently, the 125 kHz chip was the most common microchip in America. Most, but not all, American scanners can read it.

It is important to note that the forward-reading scanners can only detect 134.2 kHz (ISO standard) microchips, however, the Universal scanners can detect all microchips, irrespective of their frequencies.

Cost of microchipping a pet

Microchipping a pet typically costs between $25 and $60 without pet insurance. This charge includes the overall costs of the microchip and implant procedure. You can easily register your pet online by putting the information into a database and connecting it with your contact information - which may include an additional fee.

The most crucial thing you can do is connect your personal and pet contact information and keep it up-to-date in an online database. Doing this will ensure that the person scanning for your missing pet can quickly contact you and reunite you with your pet.

Many veterinarians recommend microchipping both dogs and cats. Because cats can slide through relatively tiny holes, they can become lost as often as dogs. If you want to microchip your cat, the cost is the same as for dogs. This is because cats and dogs employ the same microchipping product and implantation processes.

What factors affect the cost of microchipping?

Several variables can determine the cost of microchipping. Although numerous microchips are available, your veterinarian may only offer one type. That can leave you without pricing options. Some local governments and organizations provide free microchipping clinics, and shelters often microchip strays when they give vaccinations and well-checks.

Before paying for microchipping, check for free clinic offerings. If adopting from a shelter, ask if the pet is microchipped and, if not, if they offer the service. Shelters and adoption agencies sometimes pay a nominal fee for the service because of the number of pets they take in each year.

Does pet insurance cover microchips?

Pet insurance may cover the cost of microchipping your pet depending on the chosen policy. Most pet insurance policies exclude microchipping unless a wellness plan is included.

Wellness plans complement standard pet insurance plans for unforeseen medical expenses and accidents. Wellness plans are intended to serve as budgeting tools by helping you plan and manage your pet's routine care and rewarding you for being proactive with your pet's preventative care.

Final thoughts

Microchipping is a low-cost safety precaution that helps in locating and recovering lost pets. Your pet insurance wellness coverage may cover some of the cost of microchipping a cat or dog.

The benefits of microchipping your pet extend beyond simply locating it if it's missing; it gives you peace of mind, as you are assured your furry friend is always identifiable, no matter what.


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