A guide to getting your pet microchipped

Since it was introduced, microchipping for pets has been a real boon for most owners. A simple procedure, rather like getting a vaccination, it has allowed people to keep track of their pets if, as they so often do, they wander off and are found by someone else.

Few animals other than cats and dogs are regularly microchipped. Occasionally, though, escape artists such as rabbits and ferrets are chipped – as are large animals seen as a temptation for thieves, such as horses.

This is because most other pets are highly unlikely to go walkabout. As things stand, there is only a legal requirement to microchip dogs.

Dogs are far more closely controlled than other household pets such as cats. This is because, if they wander off – or are taken by thieves – they are more likely than any other common domestic animal to cause problems.

Dogs can get onto roads and cause accidents, generally leave dog mess around public places, could become aggressive, or may even breed litters of unwanted puppies.

Dogs should be microchipped around the time of their second vaccination, as they are being weaned, at about eight weeks’ old. In fact, dogs must have a collar with a tag and be microchipped to comply with the law – mostly so that they can be easily identified and reunited with their owners.

You can be fined up to £500 if your dog is past eight weeks and found not to have a chip.

If your dog has somehow not been chipped and is older than this, it can be microchipped at any time. All vets offer microchipping services that shouldn’t be too pricey.

If money is tight, however, a number of charities including Dogs Trust offer microchipping services for free.

If you are buying a puppy or a rescue animal, the fact that they are chipped should provide a lot of reassurance, as dog microchips were introduced partly to help stamp out illegal breeding that can cause misery for both animals and owners.

When you microchip your dog, you have the peace of mind that, should it be separated from you for any reason, there is more chance of you being reunited. Any dog without its owner present is considered a stray, whether it has been accidentally lost, dumped, or has even somehow managed to grow up in the wild.

It may seem a bit ‘belt and braces’ that a collar is also a legal requirement, but of course this can be read by anyone coming into contact with your pet. If a collar has somehow come off, microchipping dogs is the second level of defence in finding out their information – although whoever finds your dog will have to take it to a vet to be scanned, in order to locate you.

This is a painless experience for the animal. Equally, a dog thief might be able to take off a collar, but there’s not much they can do about a chip.

All owner data is linked to the dog’s microchip and it’s also against the law to provide false information, or to not update it when a dog is given to a new owner or dies.

Remember, if you don’t update the register with your new details when you move house or become a dog’s new owner, if it is subsequently lost or stolen then there’s a chance it will be put down if a vet is unable to find you.

Microchipping a cat is not a legal requirement. That said, cats also have a tendency to roam around a bit and can cause their owners a lot of unnecessary worry – which is why many cat owners choose to microchip their feline friends.

Microchipped cats have the same advantage as microchipped dogs. If they should turn up at a strange veterinary practice without their collar (if they even wear one), the vet can easily get hold of the owner via a scan.

So, unless you have a strictly indoor cat, getting them microchipped is always a good idea.

More than dogs in the main, cats have an uncanny tendency to go wandering. While there are sometimes newsworthy incidences of a cat finding their own way home again from afar, occasionally they can stray too far – or get injured.

So, a few pounds is a small price to pay for the peace of mind, knowing you’re highly likely to be reunited with your pet.

Like dogs, cats are often microchipped at their second vaccination, but it can be at pretty much any age. It’s best to have it done before the animal begins exploring the outdoors, though.

Like a dog’s, your cat’s details will be registered on a database for a small fee – and any changes you need to make to this at a later date will probably also incur a small charge. But if you don’t keep details up to date, it is still possible that your cat might be rehomed or even put to sleep, as it makes it harder to find you.

Find out more about our pet insurance.

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