Microchips & Tattoos

Microchips & Tattoos

Caring pet owners are using these tools to assure that if their pets are ever lost, they will be found and returned as quickly as possible. Responsible breeders are also making increasing use of these tools to assure that the puppies they sell will be identified and appropriate action taken if they are ever lost or, for any reason, turned over to a shelter or pound. They would not be used, of course, by puppy mills or others who produce puppies but want no responsibility for them afterwards. With growing knowledge, acceptance and availability of these techniques, the day may come when educated puppy buyers will recognize that use of a tracing mechanism is one sign of a responsible breeder and will not buy from anyone who is not prepared to be identified and to some degree responsible for the dog for its entire lifetime. If people only bought puppies that would, if ever necessary, be traced back to their breeders, those who approach producing or selling puppies with the attitude of "lets make a quick buck and wash our hands of any responsibility" might find themselves without a market ---- what a pity.... I do not mean to imply that, at present, a breeder who does not make use of these tools is not responsible. Their use is just too recent and too fragmented -- there is no one accepted approach and it is difficult, in some areas, to locate the products and professionals. The following comments are simply bits of information that I have acquired and put together from various discussions on the Internet. They are NOT exhaustive and may even be incorrect on certain points. They also do not indicate a preference for one method over another or one manufacturer or registry over others. I pulled this together, in fact, because I am trying to decide what I want to use for my future litters -- and no firm decisions have been reached yet.


The chip, about the size of a grain of rice, is inserted between the shoulder blades with a syringe-like instrument. It contains not batteries or chemicals and has an active life of about 25 years. The age at which this can be done varies with the size and development of the dog, as a certain amount of muscle tissue is necessary. With larger breeds, it can be done by 7 weeks, which is when most puppies go to their new homes. Most vets now have the capacity to insert chips.

The chip, when scanned, will reveal a code that is unique to the dog. By consulting the appropriate chip registry database, relevant information -- including dog's owner, breeder, emergency contact, even health problems and food requirements -- can be obtained. Implanting the chip and registering the information costs about $25. Also, the registry's 800 number and an identification number can be placed on a collar tag, so that -- assuming the collar stays with the dog -- identificatio n can be made without a scanner.

There are currently 5 companies selling microchips for animals and selling scanners. Each scanner will, of course, read that company's chips, and some state that their scanners will also read the chips of other manufacturers. The following is a breakdown of the companies that was reported by a representative of IndentIchip, one of the distributors: Destron, manufacturers 2 chips, 2 scanners, marketed by Anitech ---- Trovan, manufactures 1 chip, 1 scanner, marketed by Infopet ----- AVID, manufactures 1 chip, 1 scanner that can read both Destron chips and their own chip, marketed by IdentIchip. There has also been recent (March 1995) announcement that the AKC has reached an agreement with Schering-Plough Animal Health's to maintain a HomeAgain(TM) Companion Animal Retrieval System using a microchip which makes use of the Destron chip and scanner. Most companies will donate scanners to local shelters and pounds if they can get the vets in an area to buy their chips. In the U.K., the National Pet Register, which also uses chips, is operated by Wood Green Animal Shelters, which has some affiliation with the Kennel Club.

Advantages of Microchips:
Can't get lost like a collar
Can't be worn off or removed like a tattoo
Can lead to all of the necessary information about the dog (even preferred food), its owners, breeder, emergency contact and information can be changed readily.
Insertion is less traumatic than a tattoo.
Being used much more frequently than tattoos, according to some vets.
Shelter staff prefer chips -- fast, accurate and hands off ; there is some risk in checking flank tattoos of large, frightened, potentially aggressive dogs.

Disadvantages of Microchips
Cannot be detected or read without a scanner and not all pounds, shelters, dog control officers have scanners -- there may be none in some areas.
Some scanners do not read chips from other manufacturers.
Cannot be inserted in smaller dogs until after 10 weeks or so -- i.e., after the puppy has already gone to its new home.


Puppies can be tattooed prior to leaving the breeder. The tattoo can be an easily identified number (owner's Social Security, license plate, driver's license) or owners or breeders can obtain their own code from a registry (for about $40) -- the puppy would then be tattooed with a code permitting identification of the breeder, litter, and specific puppy. For $10.00 more, the puppy's new owner can register the dog under their own name with the registry, together with a "backup" (emergency) person -- often the breeder. The only registry I have heard mentioned is the National Dog Registry (NDR), but one source (one which was, admittedly, encouraging the use of microchips) has stated that there are over 50 different registries. NDR, however, is said to have given their number to all shelters in the United States.

It is not necessary for a vet to tattoo the dog, and often dog clubs holding Canine Good Citizen tests or matches will have a tattoo person on hand. Some breeders have obtained the equipment and training and also can do the tattoo. The inner thigh is now the most common place for a tattoo to be placed, although originally it was the underside of an ear.

Advantages of Tattoos
Do not require special machinery to locate or read.
Does not require a vet to do the procedure.
Are well-known -- most shelters, pounds, labs, police will check for a tattoo.

Disadvantages of Tattoos
Can be altered, removed, or misread and fades with time.
No uniform place to put the tattoo.
Cannot be used on most cats.
Multiple registries (?)
Many people will not turn over a large dog to look for a tattoo

Addresses (VERY partial list -- would appreciate more) IdentIchip:
Betsy H. Renaghan
44 Deer Run Lane
N. Falmouth, MA 02556

Dr. Ken Thompson of Schering-Plough, 908-629-3108; or
Robert Keely of American Kennel Club, 919-233-3663&127;


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Last Updated Sunday, April 01, 2001