Veterinary Association Answers Cat Owners’ Microchip Questions

The AVMA addresses health concerns, standards and microchip maintenance.

AVMA recommends pet owners have their pets’ microchips scanned yearly to ensure they are in place and working properly. LuckyBusiness/iStock/Thinkstock

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 h2 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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