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Microchips: Pet Safety Tool Or Dangerous Device?

So, what is the deal with microchipping? I suppose that would depend on whom you were to ask.

Some might tell you that microchips are a cutting-edge way of reconnecting lost pets with their owners. Microchips are harmless, painless, and reliable. Most importantly, they provide peace of mind for owners in the event that their pet is lost or stolen – and that thousands of pets have been returned to their owners.

Others may tell you that microchipping is deceptively dangerous, even potentially fatal and that the hazards of microchipping easily outweigh the benefits.

Microchipping Our Animals

Microchip implants are used in a wide variety of animals including but not limited to: cats, dogs, horses, birds, lizards, snakes…and even in some humans.

The chip (which is about the size of a grain of long rice) is wrapped in a plastic shell and injected under the skin. It uses a technology called Passive RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). It is “passive” because the chip itself has no internal power source. When the chip receives the electrical signal from a scanner it becomes active and produces an identification number.

Typically, the injection site is the scruff of the animal’s neck, although one of the negative of microchipping is that the chip can migrate to other parts of the body. This can lead to a false assumption that a pet is “untagged”. Chips have been known to migrate as far as the muscle above the hind leg, although this is not very common.

Another complaint is that the needle used for the injection is much larger than needles used for shots, which causes the animal unnecessary pain and stress. This is often countered by the practice of microchipping a pet when they go in to veterinary office to be spayed/neutered, or for any other operation, requiring anesthesia.

There is a very positive upside to chipping your pet. While it is estimated that 1.8% of untagged cats and 21.9% of untagged dogs are returned to their owners, microchipping our pets raises the number of found pets dramatically to 38.5% and 52.2% respectively. This keeps expenses down at local animal shelters as well as sparing the lives of thousands of pets who would otherwise be unclaimed and perhaps euthanized.

The major concerns about microchipping are the actual reliability of the chip as well as the possible risk of cancer on or near the injection site.
Also, not all implants use the same radio frequency, so not all scanners will work on every chip.

Think about it this way: if you have a Panasonic TV in your bedroom and a Sony TV in your living room, you have to make sure that the remote controls match. Your Sony remote control cannot change the volume on your Panasonic TV.

Because there are no universal scanners, tagged dogs can still end up being euthanized if the chip is not detectable and/or readable.

Also, there is no uniform database for storing all the pet identification information. This means that the animal shelter may not know which database to contact first.

Furthermore, chips can break while inside the dog – although this is rare. What is more common is for the information to be outdated and the owner of the lost pet unable to be contacted.

There have also been some studies that suggest that implanting these chips can lead to cancer. While many of these studies have been conducted on mice and rats, cancerous growths have been found in various zoo animals as well.
A 2006 French study conducted on mice showed that 4.1% of the 1,260 mice tested developed cancerous growths at the injection site.

A 1998 study done in the United States showed that more than 10% of the 177 mice tested developed cancer.
A 1997 German study showed that 1% of 4,279 mice tested developed cancer.

While the scientists involved in these studies believed that the disease was a direct result of the microchips, chip manufacturers and the majority of veterinarians have dismissed the notion. Their belief is that the cancer would have developed in these animals with or without a microchip implant.

There have been a few cases of cancer as well as other fatalities in cats and dogs as well, including a fatal case in 2009 involving a Yorkshire Terrier named “Scotty” who developed epitheliotropic lymphoma at the injection site. After a cat named “Belkin” developed cancer at his injection site, his owner filed a lawsuit against the chip manufacturer, which is currently pending. A Chihuahua named “Charlie Brown” bled to death within hours of his injection. In 2004, a cat died suddenly after the injection procedure, and the autopsy revealed that the chip had migrated to the brain stem.

While these are the horror stories associated with microchipping, they represent a minute percentage of the tens of thousands of pets who undergo this procedure.

As with anything in life, there are risks involved whether you decide to microchip your pet or not. It is up to you – the pet owner – to do your research and decide what you feel is in the best interest of your own pet.

Please let us know how you feel about this topic by leaving a comment below.

Evan Price is a Raw Diet Educator for BARF World Inc. He is a true dog lover at heart with a particular interest in Dachshunds. Evan is also an avid sports enthusiast and bridge player. For more articles like these and to learn more about the benefits of raw food for your pets, sign up for The Intelligent Pet weekly e-zine at www.barfworld.com.

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