Microchipping Household Pets – Technological Advancement or Nightmare?

Microchips in Animals

It’s frequently said that dogs are man’s best friend. To that end, pet owners are typically inclined to take pride in tending to the never-ending needs of their furry companions. As the years have gone by, advancements in technology have become the norm, and practically every aspect of today has been touched by some form of technological encroachment.

Pets are no exception.

Microchips, similar to the ones that some consumers may find in their trusty iPods or reliable Kindles, can also be found in several household animals. Although they do have their practical purposes, some individuals wonder whether or not these chips are beneficial or detrimental to the health of their pets. Let’s weigh the odds, shall we?

Information found on About.com states that a microchip is, by definition, an integrated circuit composed of a set of interconnected electronic components such as resistors and transistors. These things are imprinted onto a very small chip of a semiconducting material – usually silicon or germanium. According to Chat About Technology, Geoffrey W.A. Dummer, one of the founding fathers of the microchip, begin to introduce the idea of one in the early 1950’s. His goal, of course, was to have a small chip capable of storing large amounts of data. Pretty impressive for the 1950’s, right?

Jack Kilby, one of the early pioneers of Texas Instruments, the company that designs and manufactures the nifty calculators that math students so often use to cheat with, later fashioned the very first microchip in 1958. His design, at 7/16-by-1/16 inches, was merely composed of a transistor, other components and a tidbit of germanium. Naturally, Kilby’s tiny device would go on to revolutionize the world of information technology…and the rest is history.

Microchips have proven to be successful in a variety of different ways, but who knew they could also be used to keep tabs on our pets? According to How Stuff Works, more than three million cats and dogs are euthanized at U.S. animal shelters every year. With the help of microchips, some pet owners have been able to prevent their beloved companions from running away from home. Since pet microchipping started in the mid-90’s, more and more people are opting to do it. The chips are no bigger than a grain of rice and are implanted in the subcutaneous tissues of animals via a hypodermic needle.

The microchips found in animals are battery-free and are sealed in a biocompatible glass covered by a sheath to prevent migration. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the chips are activated by a low-power frequency signal emitted by scanners. The chips use radio frequency identification (RFID) technology by utilizing radio waves, and hold information pertaining to the pet. Due to the fact that it has no internal power source, these chips requires a scanner to keep it energized. The standard frequency for animal microchips is 134.2-kHz, and implantation is completely voluntary meaning that owners are given the choice.

So, what are some of the things that may go through an owner’s mind when it comes to microchipping their pets? Well, for starters, is it harmful?

Perchance that depends on whether or not you consider cancer to be detrimental. How Stuff Works states that in 2004, the Food and Drug Administration considered the process to be safe. Nevertheless, since the 1990’s studies have shown evidence that microchips can cause cancerous tumors to develop in rats and mice. Furthermore, the AVMA states that a microchip may induce a foreign-body reaction and tumor formation in species or strains prone to developing tumors. However, that isn’t to say that every pet may experience this. Results may vary.

With that being said, the benefits of microchips in pets may be enough to sway owners. An accepted form of identification is a tattooing procedure that could be painful, in addition to it fading, hence the reason microchips are so popular. The AVMA states that implantation in horses and other livestock allows increased recovery of stolen animals and traceability in the event of a disease outbreak. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, implanted microchips helped identify animals and reunite them with their owners.

So, what’s the future hold for microchip technology? Mashable reports that IBM has started perfecting new technology to replace silicon chips, and that Intel is working on the next generation of computer chips to be found in PCs and Macs. Mashable states that the smaller the chips become, the greater their processing frequencies. Oy vey.

It seems microchip technology is an everlasting one. While it may have its pros and cons, when it comes to microchipping pets, it’s really up to the owner. Careful consideration and research always helps, but some individuals just may prefer to go with their gut. Smart thinking? Who knows?

Then again, all dogs go to heaven, right?

– Jaylen Christie

How do you feel about microchipping your pets? Do you find microchips to be beneficial?  Let us know at our Facebook Page, our Twitter, or by sounding off in the comments below!