File photo: To help owners reunite with lost pets the NSPCA partnered with Identipet, the preferred microchipping company in South Africa. Photo: ANA

Cape Town - Pets occupy an important part of our lives and their disappearance can often leave a void. No matter how careful we might be, it can be easy for them to go missing.

According to Astrid Buschke, practice manager at the Cape Animal Medical Centre, a microchip is the best chance someone has of reuniting with their lost pets.

“We never think these things happen to us, but accidents happen You would be surprised how many dogs go missing and when you ask the owner if it was wearing a collar they say, ‘he usually does but I had just given him a bath so I’d taken it off’ and cats are notorious for constantly losing collars. A microchip is for life.”

A microchip is a permanent method of electronic identification. The chip is small - about the size of a grain of rice - and is implanted just under the skin between the pet’s shoulder blades.

A needle slightly thicker than a regular one is used to insert the chip and this can be done by any qualified veterinarian.

Each chip has a unique registration number that can be detected using a hand-held scanner. It is important to note that you cannot track a lost pet as a microchip is not like a GPS.

“It is a form of identification that is on the pet at all times so, for example, when somebody finds a dog running in the road and takes it in to any vet or welfare organisation, a special scanner is used to read the number of the chip. The number is then looked up on an online microchip database where its owners details are listed. So you are able to call the owner and inform them their dog has been found,” Buschke said.

There are various types of microchip brands to choose from and the costs vary, but they are generally priced between R150 and R300.

Each organisation or veterinary practice has its own preferred brand.

The SPCA trusts and uses microchips by Get Me Known and they cost R254.

All kinds of pets can be microchipped, but there is a bigger demand for them among cats and dogs.

Owners can choose to use this service at any point in their pets’ lives.

“Kittens and puppies can be chipped at around eight weeks or, if they are a very small breed, when they are big enough. But the sooner it is done the better,” said SPCA vet Dr Debbie Clayton.

The procedure has no side effects, except for temporary inflammation and short-term itching around the implantation site and slight bleeding.

Belinda Abraham, spokesperson for the Cape of Good Hope SPCA, said a microchip was recommended by all veterinary practitioners as it is not only undeniable proof of ownership but facilitates the return of lost pets.

“At the SPCA, stray animals are scanned for a chip immediately upon admission. If all animals were microchipped, it would mean that we could reunite these pets with their owners very quickly.”

Weekend Argus