These days, even our dogs can get pretty high tech. Many owners choose to have microchips inserted into their dogs so that they can be scanned and brought back home if he ever gets lost and picked up by a good samaritan. Some owners worry, though, that this computer chip add-on will be too obvious on their skin. So, what’s the deal with microchips?
In most cases, you can’t feel a microchip in a dog when it has been properly inserted between the dog’s shoulder blades. It’s inserted this way deliberately to keep it in place and also make sure your dog doesn’t have any kind of discomfort from it, either. If a microchip moves around, however, sometimes owners can feel it, especially in smaller dogs with thin fur.
Where are microchips placed?
Microchips are placed directly between the shoulder blades through a tiny, virtually painless insertion by vets. The microchip will settle into the skin between the shoulder blades and it is protected from harm and is also out of the way for your pet to pick at, dislodge, etc.
How big is a microchip in a dog?
A microchip is tiny, much like most things computer-related these days! It is basically the same length and circumference as a grain of rice. It will feel like a tiny narrow lump under your dog’s skin. The tiny size alone means that deliberately hunting for the microchip with the naked eye and your hands is very challenging, especially if your dog is very fluffy!
The microchip is so small that when it is inserted into your dog, he doesn’t even realize it half the time!
How can you tell if a dog is chipped?
If you want to try to locate the chip with your hands and with your eyes, you can definitely try to do that. This is most often easier if you have a small dog with thin, short fur (such as a chihuahua or a bulldog).
The easier way, though, is that you can use a microchip scanner to do it. This looks like a security wand and you would wave it over the dog’s shoulder blades while pressing the button. If there is a microchip, the serial number will show up on the scanner and then that serial number can be used to connect the dog to the owner who has it registered!
In most cases, you won’t have to pay a vet to have a microchip scanned. This is because they assume you’ve found a stray dog (more on that in a minute) and you want to get him back to his family. So, if you discover that a stray does have a microchip, don’t be worried about a vet bill! Take him in, or, consider taking him to a rescue shelter — most have scanners there.
Also, most microchip kits include dog collar tags that you can attach along with his name tag and immunization tags. This tag includes the serial number so that your dog won’t have to be scanned with the scanner (though many will, just to make sure they match!)
Can a microchip move in a dog?
Yes, microchips can move in a dog, so If you’ve discovered a straight microchip-shaped lump in your dog’s shoulder or on his chest, or even on his back it could be it. Since they are not tethered down to a bone in your dog, sometimes roughhousing and playing, or just general dog life can cause the microchip to wiggle around and even relocate itself.
Don’t be alarmed, your dog will be totally fine. You don’t need to have it removed and reinserted or anything like that. Vets and other scanning specialists understand that microchips can move, especially over the years, so they will wave their wand all over the dog’s torso to make sure that they don’t possibly miss a scan.
The relocation of the microchip shouldn’t impact its usability if it needs to be scanned to get him home, though you can keep an eye on its location if you’re especially worried about it!
How to tell if it is a lump or a microchip
Most of us worry about growths and bumps in our dogs, and for good reason! If you can feel a bump between his shoulder blades or elsewhere and you’re unsure if it’s a microchip or something else instead, here are some things that you can keep in mind.
- Is it exactly the parameters of a microchip?
- What does it feel like?
- Does it bother your dog when you touch it or poke at it?
- Does your dog have a microchip?
Is it exactly the parameters of a microchip?
You know that old expression: “If it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.” This also applies to your dog’s microchip! If it measures exactly the dimensions of a grain of rice (compare one and see) and it’s more or less in the right location, it’s probably a microchip!
What does it feel like?
A microchip is going to be hard to the touch and narrow with rounded edges (just like that grain of rice). It’s very rare for a tumor or other growth to be all of those things. Most are soft, a different shape, or otherwise “just feel weird”. A microchip is going to feel very definitely like, well, a microchip…
Does it bother your dog when you touch it or poke at it?
Another way to see if it’s something organic or inorganic is to see how your dog reacts when you poke or touch it. If he looks like you like you’re crazy (or continues to snooze), odds are that it’s the chip. If he is distressed or moves away from you, it might be something else!
Does your dog have a microchip?
Okay, so this one is obvious, but some of us bring home dogs that have had previous homes (from rescue shelters or just a neighbor down the road). A lot of shelters and rescues will scan for microchips before they even list the pet as being available. But, the person down the street wouldn’t know that.
Whenever you bring a new dog home, you can ask your vet to scan for a microchip at his first check-up and that can help. If you know your dog for sure does not have a microchip (and you don’t get one inserted), this may earn you a trip to the vet to get it checked out!
General microchip pointers
Feeling and dealing with a microchip in your dog is one of those topics that gets a lot of concern, but it doesn’t need to be a big ordeal. Microchips are intended to help identify a dog quickly and get him back home to where he belongs: end of story! Here are some general tips and pointers to keep in mind, however, to ease your mind.
If you’re reading this and you’re really concerned because you can’t feel your dog’s microchip, don’t panic! There are many, many dogs who have microchips where you can’t feel them even if you are an experienced professional.
You don’t need to take your dog to the vet in a panic because their microchip has gone missing. The odds are that it’s still there and perfectly fine, placed where it should be. That being said, if you’re really concerned, you can absolutely talk to your vet about it!
If you pick up a stray dog on the street with no collar tags, you’ll want to take him to a vet or a shelter and have him scanned. This is the fastest and easiest way to get him back to where he belongs as fuss-free as possible! Want to turn yourself into a dog rescuer? Consider investing in a scanner wand yourself!
If your dog has a microchip, you have to make sure that you keep the information up to date! Outdated information is going to be no more helpful than not having a microchip in the first place. Make it part of your yearly routine to check the accuracy of it all so that your pet can get back to you if needed!
When you adopt a dog from someone down the street or a shelter, ask if they have been microchipped. If they have been, you can update the serial code information to match yours so that he gets returned to you instead of his previous owner if it’s needed.
Technology has brought us some pretty neat improvements over the years, and microchips are certainly amongst some of the best. Whether you can feel it or not, a microchip can be a key part of keeping your dog safe and sound if it’s ever needed!