Saturday, August 20, 2011

"Eternal Home Again" Microchips

"Professional" microchip insertion at a clinic
 Microchip ID has been widely touted for use in recovery of lost pets and facilitating returns to owner. Since our pets can’t give a phone number or address when they are lost, no doubt microchips can be very advantageous. I choose to have my dogs microchipped.

However, the State of California wishes to remove that choice from us. Los Angeles already has a mandatory microchip law on the books, enacted based on promises from the “Found Animals Foundation” to provide the city with millions of dollars worth of microchips. Shelters in many areas routinely microchip animals prior to adoption. And now the legislature is advancing a bill (SB 702) which mandates microchipping of all animals released from shelters. The owner or prospective owner would have no choice in the matter.

Since the cost of the microchip will be borne by the owner, this will probably result in higher adoption/impound fees. For at least some pets, this will reduce the chances of being adopted or reclaimed.

A microchip can be a wonderful tool, but they are not without pitfalls. There have been rare instances of microchip insertion resulting in illness and death. Dogs have bled to death after insertion and suffered from infecton at the insertion site. Some have had the chip inserted improperly into muscle tissue or even the spinal canal, and there are even instances of lethal cancer formation at microchip sites. (See articles linked below). Chips can migrate in the body or fail, rendering them useless. Microchips also vary considerably by manufacturer and there is no universal scanner at this time.

Other forms of identification such as tattoos or tags can be immediately read by anyone who finds a stray dog, allowing rapid return to owner and reducing the burden on local shelters. Animal welfare groups such as AKC and OFA consider tattoos to be an acceptable form of permanent ID. Freeze branding is also an option worth considering.

Information on a microchip may not always be updated upon transfer of ownership. If there is increased reliance on microchip without another form of ID, the result may be the death of a beloved pet who could have survived with the use of a more visible form of ID.

Animals who are stolen will most likely never be scanned, rendering a microchip uselss in such situations. The thief can even have the microchip surgically removed. This is another instance where a more visible form of ID like a tattoo might be more useful than a microchip.

In regard to microchipping, the American Veterinary Medical association states on their website:

"As with almost anything, it's not a foolproof system. Although it's very rare, microchips can fail and become unable to be detected by a scanner. Problems with the scanners are also not common, but can occur. Human error, such as improper scanning technique or incomplete scanning of an animal, can also lead to failure to detect a microchip. Some of the animal-related factors that can make it difficult to detect a microchip include the following: animals that won't stay still or struggle too much while being scanned; the presence of long, matted hair at or near the microchip implantation site; and a metal collar (or a collar with a lot of metal on it). All of these can interfere with the scanning and detection of the microchip."

The AVMA further states on this same page:

"It looks like a simple-enough procedure to implant a microchip – after all, it's just like giving an injection, right? Well, yes and no. Although it looks like a simple injection, it is very important that the microchip is implanted properly. Using too much force, placing the needle too deeply, or placing it in the wrong location can not only make it difficult to detect or read the microchip in the future, but it can also cause life-threatening problems. Microchips should really be implanted under supervision by a veterinarian, because veterinarians know where the microchips should be placed, know how to place them, and know how to recognize the signs of a problem and treat one if it occurs."

Yet, in Rebecca May’s bill analysis for SB 702 from July 8, there are reassuring statements made regarding microchip safety. Ms. May asserts "The material is inert and biocompatible, thereby there is no health risk to the animal from the insertion of the microchip. Also, implanting the device is similar to that of a vaccination, resulting in minimal pain for the animal - and can be implanted by veterinary techs and other personnel."

The statement that "there is no health risk to the animal from the insertion of the microchip" is patently false. And the AVMA seems to feel that veterinarians should be there to at least supervise the insertion, in light of the complications that may occur.

Here are two documented cases of the microchip being implanted in the spinal canal. One is dated 2009 and the other case is dated 2010.

Who is responsible if the microchip is placed in the spinal canal? Will it now be the State?

Case 1:

Vet Comp Orthop Traumatol. 2009;22(1):63-5.

Surgical removal of a microchip from a puppy's spinal canal.

"A 1.6 kg, six-week-old Tibetan Terrier was admitted with a 12-hours
history of acute onset of progressive tetraparesis following insertion of
a microchip to the dorsal cervical region. Neurological examination
indicated a lesion to the Ce(1) to Ce(5) spinal cord segments.
Radiographic examination confirmed the intra-spinal location of a
microchip foreign body at the level of the second cervical vertebra.
Microchip removal was achieved following dorsal hemi-laminectomy;
significant intra-operative haemorrhage was encountered. The puppy was
ambulatory at day seven. Follow-up telephone interview 18 months
postoperatively confirmed that the patient had made a good recovery
although it had a mild residual right- sided torticollis."

Case 2:

Vet Comp Orthop Traumatol. 2010;23(3):213-7. Epub 2010 Apr 26.

Delayed spinal cord injury following microchip placement in a dog.

"A three-year-old female, entire Yorkshire Terrier dog was examined because 
it had progressive non-weight-bearing left forelimb lameness and
tetraparesis of two weeks duration. Clinical signs were first observed
following mating. Examination confirmed non-weight-bearing left forelimb
lameness and tetraparesis. Left forelimb muscle atrophy was also noticed.
Survey radiography revealed a metallic foreign body consistent with a
microchip in close proximity to the left articular facets between the
fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae. Computed tomography identified the
exact location of the foreign body encroaching on the left dorsolateral
vertebral canal, and osteolysis of the lamina of the sixth cervical
vertebra. Surgical removal of the foreign body was performed via a dorsal
approach to the caudal cervical vertebral column. Two weeks following
surgery the dog showed return of left forelimb function and resolving
tetraparesis. Microchip implantation had been performed three years

Risks from microchips are rare, but problems do occur. Microchip insertion should be a personal choice and an individual decision, based upon weighing the risk vs benefit. Such a procedure should not be mandated by the state.

For further information: 

"Implants Linked to Animal Tumors"
Todd Lewan, A.P.
September 8, 2007

"Chipped Pets Develop Fast-Growing, Lethal Tumors

The Scientific Evidence

Case Histories

CASPIAN Releases Microchip Cancer Report


  1. I would also point out that in our steal-happy, seize-happy society, that we are beginning to hear some awful stories. Dogs that are stolen or seized illegally, are having their information "changed". So, if the dog IS chipped, whoever steals/seizes/takes the dog, is simply calling Home Again, or whoever the manufacturer is, and changing the owner information. And voiding the previous information. They just present themselves as the "new" owner. There's no proof required, no policy in place to confirm "legal" ownership. Just because a dog is chipped, doesn't mean it will find it's way home, if nefarious sources are responsible for it's disappearance. This is a frightening turn of events.

  2. You're right, Rosebud, there was just a case in the LA shelter where a rescue group surgically removed a microchip from a dog that they wanted to re-home. And no one even checked for a microchip before turning the dog over to the rescue group! There have been several cases I have read about where the shelter did not check for the chip. In one case, the owner happened to come to the shelter to find his dog who would have soon been killed as his time was about to expire. Nobody bothered to check for a microchip.
    We are presuming that shelters WANT to return dogs to owners. Some of the AR nuts who work in the shelters think you're a crappy owner if your dog gets loose and they feel you shouldn't have it returned to you. Sad but true.
    Not to mention, here in California, the shelters are reimbursed by the state for the dogs that they kill, but they don't get any state funds for dogs that are returned to owner or sent out to a rescue group. What incentive do they have to save the dog? None, really.

  3. I pull dogs from the shelter for several different Southern California rescues. I recently had two dogs loaded into my vehicle when a shelter employee came running out and told me I needed to bring the dogs back inside because they had not been scanned for a microchip. The dogs has each been at the shelter for 10 days, and were being moved into the rescue pipeline without anyone at the shelter even bothering to see if they were chipped.

  4. I do not want a microchip in my dogs!
    I don't want one in me, or anything else.

    My biggest falling out of favor in the seahorse community was when a certain company who raises captive bred seahorses started dropping them
    in anesthetic to make them pass out, cutting open their exoskeletons and
    you got it!- putting MICROCHIPS in them! That isn't right at all! It comes out to like us having a GLASS SHOE in our stomach + diaphragm
    area. This one place sells ALL their seahorses that way. Why?

    Well if they go to your store, and scan your tank, and the seahorses didn't all register as from them, they cut off that store. They would not allow them to buy from them.

    I am one of the FEW that pitched a fit that they would do this. Oh and the death rate, not too bad they said. Only 1 out of about 10 seahorses DIE from being cut open and treated this way. For some reason, since they are captive bred, they feel that this makes it o.k. I don't. I know it is an opinion, but so many of our seahorse people didn't know it at the time. It is just horrific to me though.

    Microchips just scare me.

  5. Microchipping does have it's good and bad points. I have all three of my dogs chipped and would hope that if any of them got loose and taken to a shelter, they would scan them. Most vets will scan strays that are brought in. I think the for dogs, out weighs the risk of not being able to identify the owner and return the dog.

  6. I agree with you, Rick. I believe the benefits outweigh the risks. My issue is with government MANDATING that we microchip. I believe it should remain the owner's choice. Also, it's dandy if shelters choose to microchip animals prior to adoption, but they must consider the cost so that it does not increase the price for the adoption. If they are getting free chips from Found Animal Foundation, then go for it. Otherwise, they should think twice about raising adoption costs with microchips. Fewer animals will be adopted from shelter or rescue if the price is too high. It's already rather pricey to adopt here in California with our spay-neuter requirement. Many people will just find a neighbor with pups or kittens and choose tghe free pet instead of the one from the shelter. Let's not set up more price obstacles to saving animals lives.

  7. My dog's info was illegally changed as well through "Home Again" without them ever notifying me. The rescue that obtained him LIED and said he was seized. I am having to fight several rescues in court to get my dogs home. Please consider helping me if you can

  8. Microchip scanning made more efficient: Ohio State University researcher Linda K Lord found that scanning was more effective if you
    "Avoid interference by scanning away from computers, metal tables, and fluorescent lighting. Remove any metal collars prior to scanning."
    From her findings, if the collar had metal at the top or back of the neck, the scanner would not register the microchip. If the metal was
    turned down, under the chin of the pet, the microchip would scan. This is very important for animal control workers to know!!

  9. Microchips for pets arequite amazing. Much faster than a tatoo, way less painful and way easier to read, they are simply changing the life of pets.

    microchips for pets

  10. Here's another animal injured seriously by microchipping. Kitten in paralyzed by the chip.