Veterinary Association Answers Cat Owners' Microchip Questions

The AVMA addresses health concerns, standards and microchip maintenance.

Posted: December 11 2007 2 a.m. EDT

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Veterinary Association Answers Cat Owners' Microchip Questions
Veterinary experts say the benefits of microchips for cats outweigh the risks.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) released new informational resources regarding microchips in an effort to answer questions and provide the latest details on the implanted identification devices.

Microchips are enclosed in glass cylinders and are about the size of a grain of rice. Activation occurs only when a scanner passes over the chip, which reveals an identification number. The devices are injected underneath the skin and are no more painful for a pet than a typical shot.

Health Concerns
Recent news reports have linked microchips and cancer; however, the AVMA states that the chance of a pet developing a cancerous tumor due to a microchip is “very, very low.” The studies linking microchips to cancer were conducted on mice and rats; however, most of the rodents were being used for cancer studies when the tumors were found. Microchips were also reportedly linked to cancer in two dogs, but the AVMA states in at least one of the dogs the tumor could not be directly linked to the microchip, and the tumor could have been caused by something else.  

The British Small Animal Veterinary Association keeps a database of animals that have been adversely affected by microchips, and only 0.009 percent of pet owners reported unfavorable reactions.

No federal standards for microchips exist within the United States, which has led to different manufacturers creating different technologies. Each manufacturer keeps a separate database with pets’ information. However, scanned microchips display the name of the manufacturer, which allows veterinarians and shelters to gain access to the proper database.

The International Standards Organization (ISO) approved a global standard for microchips, which would allow microchips to be read around the world with universal scanners. The standard has not been adopted by the United States. Therefore, microchips may not be detected if a pet is lost while traveling to another country. Ongoing efforts are in place to create scanners that can read all microchips.

The only microchip maintenance required is keeping contact information up-to-date with the manufacturer. AVMA recommends pet owners have their pets’ microchips scanned yearly to ensure they are in place and working properly. Microchips shouldn’t be used to replace identification and rabies vaccination tags.

Microchips greatly improve the chances of a lost pet returning home, and the AVMA states that the benefits of microchips far outweigh any risks.

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Reader Comments

Elle    San Diego, CA

9/19/2014 3:06:12 PM

Niyah - please take your kitten to a vet right away! Something is quite wrong.
Ellen - indoor kitties get outside all the time, tragically. It usually happens when visitors come, and when an inexperienced cat sitter accidentally lets them out. Indoor cats don't last long outside and if they aren't chopped and someone finds them, they end up in a shelter with a less than 50 % chance of staying alive.


9/19/2014 2:59:40 PM

I have two years old cats they are indoors. I have a dog that is two years.

Lynn    Long Pond, PA

10/3/2010 4:47:55 PM

my both kittens now 1 1/2 yrs old are both indoor only but when they got fixed at 6 months old and were under anethesia I had them microchipped.. What if they get out and /or found somewhere or we get a storm, stuff happens. I am so glad I did and they didn't even know it was done, they were w/the vet anyway that day getting spayed.

Niyah    Citronelle, AL

6/24/2009 3:01:54 PM

i need help with my kitten. i have had her for some time now an i went to spend the night with a freind and i came back home and she started to cry a lot and when she lays down. her hind legs are hiested. i dont know what to do. please help me

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