Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Medical Issues: Microchips, part 2

Last week, we discussed the risks and benefits of microchipping your pet. This week, we'll look at how the microchip works, as well as other reasons the microchip is worth considering that you might not have thought of.

Science Stuff and
More Myth Busting

A microchip puts out an RF (radio frequency) signal that can be picked up by a scanner. There are 3 different frequencies used by companies that manufacture pet microchips in the U.S.:

Photo Wiki Commons, courtesy Helene Gisin.
Licensed under Creative Commons Share Alike 3.0

125-kHz microchips:
24PetWatch® (unencrypted)
FriendChip®, Avid (encrypted)
HomeAgain®/Digital Angel (unencrypted)

128-kHz microchips:
AKC Companion Animal Recovery®

134.2-kHz microchips:
Bayer ResQ®
HomeAgain®/Digital Angel

The reason I listed all that geeky kHz stuff above is because there's a myth involved here that we're about to bust. The myth is, "OMG, my cat's got the 134 kHz chip and she's going to get euthanized if she runs away and gets picked up by a shelter that only scans for 125 kHz chips!!"

Not true.

Although individual brands of microchips are designed to work best at their specific frequency, they have quite good readability on other frequencies as well. This is confirmed in FCC government filings which show that scanners marketed as "multi-frequency" are really only single frequency scanners. (see source links at bottom of post)

a kHz sine wave

The second myth to bust is the one about radio frequencies causing cancer. First off, your pet is not walking around broadcasting a signal at all times. in fact, it's the scanner itself that sends out a pulse that "excites" the microchip into giving off a sympathetic response.

(Not that kind of excitement, Cathy Keisha. Just sayin'.)

Second, the signal the scanner provokes the microchip into sending out is orders of magnitude less than that cell phone you hold to your ear on a daily basis. Microchips operate in the kilohertz range; your cell phone emits in the gigahertz range. (And no we're not even getting into the cell phone topic here, LOL!)

Other really good reasons to microchip

Probably the most compelling argument I've ever seen for microchipping your pet occurred this past February -- when I watched the apartment complex where Amy and Kathi lived (Sebastian the Sensitive Soul and CJ's Paw Pad) go up in flames.

As those of you who have followed our blog for some time know, twenty apartments were destroyed in that fire.  A fire that was so bad, the fire inspector told Amy, that "the building was lost before we even arrived."

Police were racing against time to save lives. They were going around kicking doors in. Animals raced out, some never to be found again. One cat, though, was microchipped. His owners were not home at the time of the fire. They lost everything they owned -- except their cat, who was returned to them days later.

In an emergency like a fire or a natural disaster such as the Joplin tornado -- the first anniversary of which we'll be commemorating next week -- your pet can be separated from you in the blink of an eye. A microchip might be the only way they find their way back to you.

Worth it? You bet.

source:  U.S. FCC database search form

(Submit the form with "Grantee Code" and "Product Code" for each individual scanner; for the new universal Digital Angel/HomeAgain Scanner, still operating at 125 kHz (0.125 megahertz) codes "C5S" and "HS9250L"; for a recent AVID scanner, operating at 134.2 kHz (0.1342 megahertz), codes "IOL" and "-134-AV1034I" .)


  1. We are big supporters of microchips. The shelter I volunteer at has had some microchip miracles!

    Your pal, Pip

  2. I have considered having my cat microchipped..Katie Isabella. One never knows, as you so ably stated.

  3. great info!! we know the local shelters and rescues all microchip before adopting....and have seen great results!!

  4. A Must,great info.
    Best wishes Molly

  5. I had no idea about those chips! Great info!

  6. I am chipped and we all think it is great

  7. Excellent article again. M is very happy I'm microchipped, and so am I actually. I would hate not to find my way back home again if I should ever get lost or scared and run away.

  8. Dunno if shelters around here will give out an animal that hasn't been microchipped. It adds excitement! Heh heh!

  9. Oooh! Geeky tekky post with radio waves and everything!! Austin has booked me in for a chip on Wednesday ;)

  10. Wow--we are soooo convinced. Now, if my Human could only maneuver me into a carrier.....heh, heh.

    Hope you all had a wonderful Mother's Day!

  11. Microchipping sure is useful. We'll get Mommy to check to see if things have improve over here (database maintenance).

    Thank you so much for your purrs and prayers for Tutu. They most certainly helped! :)


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