Microchipping — value of a practice policy

02 June 2018
2 mins read
Volume 9 · Issue 5
 All dogs over 8 weeks od age must be microchipped by law, but a microchip is only useful if the owner's details are up to date.
All dogs over 8 weeks od age must be microchipped by law, but a microchip is only useful if the owner's details are up to date.


National Microchipping Month is held in June each year; during this month veterinary professionals and pet owners are encouraged to think about the benefits of microchipping. By law all dogs over 8 weeks of age are required to be microchipped, and there are also benefits to other pets such as cats. Having a practice policy on microchipping could help to ensure that discussions about microchips become routine.

Microchipping has been compulsory in dogs for more than 2 years now, and anecdotally at least, it appears that it has been effective in increasing the percentage of dogs in the UK that are microchipped. The Dogs Trust's ‘Stray Dogs Survey Report 2017’ (https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/news-events/news/stray%20dogs%20report_v4.pdf) notes that more dogs coming into their care during 2017 were microchipped, compared with 2016. Cats are still not required to be microchipped, and a much lower percentage of cats have had a chip implanted — and the percentage gets much lower when looking at other pets such as rabbits, ferrets, reptiles and so on.

Most of the time, a pet's microchip is not essential. However, in two situations it becomes vital: when a pet is being taken abroad/brought into the UK, and when a lost or strayed animal is brought in to a veterinary practice or animal rescue centre.

All dogs over 8 weeks od age must be microchipped by law, but a microchip is only useful if the owner's details are up to date.

The aim of National Microchipping Month in June each year is to educate pet owners about the benefits of microchipping — and about the importance of keeping their associated contact details up to date. Veterinary practices can play a large role in this education, not only during June but throughout the year. However, time is always short and in a busy practice, it can be easy not to discuss microchipping with owners. A practice policy on microchipping could help this to become routine, with every aspect of the practice playing a role:

  • In the waiting room, posters on display and/or a slot on the electronic screen alongside reminders regarding vaccination, worming, flea control etc.
  • Ensuring that microchipping, including the legal requirements and the benefits, is prominent on the practice's website — with stories of pets reunited with owners.
  • At reception, whenever a pet is booked in or when the client arrives at the surgery, alongside the check on the pet's name and the owner's name and contact details, two questions: ‘has Fluffy been microchipped?’ and ‘Are your contact details on the microchipping database are up to date?’ This could be backed up by a leaflet and/or an email to the client providing information on microchipping and on updating their details.
  • During routine veterinary or veterinary nurse consultations, such as vaccinations or well cat appointments — or during all non-emergency consultations — scanning all pets for a microchip as a routine part of the consultation. This would enable early detection of missing or malfunctioning microchips, as well as provide a good lead-in to a brief conversation on the benefits of microchipping — backed up by a practice leaflet.
  • Making sure all staff who might be asked about microchipping by clients are aware of the practice policy of encouraging microchipping, and able to provide good information to the client.
  • Including microchipping as part of pet care plans for cats, dogs (and for other pets as well, if the practice has any special schemes for rabbits etc.).
Cats and other pets, such as rabbits and ferrets, also benefit from being microchipped — the presence of a microchip increases the chance that a lost pet will be reunited with its owner.

Watching a strayed pet being reunited with its owner is incredibly rewarding, while seeing the distress of an owner whose pet has been lost, strayed or stolen, and knowing you can do nothing is frustrating.

What can you do to encourage the implementation of a microchipping policy at your practice?