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Why Microchips Are Important When Shipping Your Pet

Published on: April 15, 2022  |  Author: Starwood Pet Travel

Portrait of confident female veterinarian examining dog in hospital-1

If you will be shipping your pet by air, especially to another country, chances are they will need a microchip because most foreign countries require them as part of the pet import process. Beyond that specific requirement, however, microchips are a must-have for every precious cat or dog, regardless of whether they are on the move.

A collar and tags are not enough to protect your beloved pet. Tags wear out and collars can come off. A lot of cats don’t even have collars. A microchip doesn't fall off or wear out so it's a better way to permanently identify your pet.

A microchip shouldn’t completely replace a collar and tags, though. It can only be read with a proper microchip scanner, and then your pet’s ID number must be matched with your contact information. That works fine when you’re shipping your pet or if they get lost and wind up at a shelter, but if they wander off around the neighborhood, the people who find them won’t have a scanner on hand. They’ll have to rely on your pet's tags to reunite you or bring them to a local vet or rescue that has a scanner.

Proper identification is essential when shipping your pet.

To travel by air, your pet must have a health certificate, rabies vaccination certificate and other import paperwork specific to the destination country. Their unique microchip number must be recorded on all of these documents. Your pet's microchip should be scanned at every vet visit to ensure it is readable and accurately reported on your pet's paperwork. It is imperative that the microchip number is correctly recorded in your pet's records as this will prove the health paperwork and history is really theirs.

There are two crucial things you need to know about microchips:

  1. They make a monumental difference - American Humane says more than 10 million dogs and cats go missing every year in the US, and only those with a microchip stand a better chance of being reunited with their distraught pet parents.
  2. They are worthless if they are not registered - The Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association conducted a study of 53 animal shelters around the country, and learned that although many lost pets did indeed have microchips, only 58% of those chips had been formally registered. So the shelters could scan an animal’s microchip to learn its ID number, but then they had no way to match the number with the animal’s owner.

What does the microchip do?

It is a tiny RFID transponder (radio-frequency identification device). When a hand-held scanner passes over it, the chip transmits your pet’s microchip ID number. The microchip does not contain your contact information, so it’s impossible for anyone to obtain your personal data simply by scanning your pet’s microchip. The microchip number can be entered online into a microchip database and as long as you registered your pet's microchip with your contact details, your contact information can be found.

Microchips also come with a tag for your pet’s collar that shows the ID number and registry phone number. A microchip is not the same as a GPS, so it cannot serve as a lost pet locator.

There are several brands of microchips, each with their own companion registry - a database that vets, shelters and customs officials can access to find or verify a pet’s owner. This is why it is essential that you keep your personal information updated – it should be one of your top priorities when you move to a new location, whether it is across town or halfway around the world.

The 2-step microchipping process is easy.

Your vet can implant a microchip in your cat or dog quickly and simply. Some animal shelters also provide this service. For your pet, it’s essentially like getting a vaccination – the microchip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, is pre-loaded in a special syringe, and it’s inserted under the skin between the shoulder blades. The cost of a microchip is roughly between $25 to $60 but do not that this may not include the registration fee or the fee a vet or shelter may charge to insert the chip.

You must then officially register the microchip by sending your contact information to the microchip manufacturer. Pet parents who adopt or purchase a dog or cat that already has a microchip must contact the appropriate registry to update the ownership/contact information.

Different microchip brands use different signal frequencies and if your pet will be traveling internationally, they will need an ISO (International Organization for Standardization) compatible chip so that it can be read by many different scanners. If your pet already has a microchip that is NOT ISO-compatible, then you may need to get a new microchip. Keep in mind that both microchips should be recorded on all of your pet's health records.

Shipping your pet can sometimes be emotionally difficult for humans. Microchips not only provide unassailable identification for your dog or cat, they provide unparalleled peace of mind for you. Don't make a mistake by choosing not to place a microchip in your pet. There are many mistakes pet owners make when they are moving their pets, make sure you take the necessary steps to make sure your pet is safe!

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