With our recent hurricanes, it has been a good reminder of the importance of microchipping your horses. Microchipping is the best form of permanent identification for animals, yet very few people tend to use it. We thought an FAQ might help address some questions our clients might have!
Q: Why is it the best form of identification?
A: Not only does the microchip list the information for the horse, but it lists the owner's information also. Unlike paperwork, this cannot be lost, stolen, faked, or manipulated. Some states are even requiring microchipping for Coggins. If you show in USEF competitions, as of December 1, 2017, your horse will need to be microchipped. If you think about it more practically - if your horse is stolen, wouldn't you want an object (that could not be removed) that said you owned it? This has reunited many horses with their owners!
Q: Why does my horse need to be microchipped?
A: We think about microchipping our dogs or cats in case they get loose or run away from home. This is less likely to happen with your horse. What is far more likely is that (1) you may need to leave your horse behind/outside during a natural disaster (hurricanes being common in our area). Should your horse get loose during such a situation, a microchip is the best way to ensure he or she is returned to you! It cannot rub off or get ripped off - it WILL be there when your horse is rescued. Additionally, (2) microchips can be extremely useful in case your horse is stolen. They are proof that the horse is owned and that you own it. Facilities that should be scanning all horses that are taken in are humane shelters and slaughter facilities. If your horse is scanned here, clearly the odds of it getting back to you are higher if it's microchipped!
Q: How do you microchip a horse?
A: Here is the procedure start-to-finish! This is on one of our pony patients who does NOT like needles. As much as we believe in microchipping, we do not think it needs to be painful, as the needle is a bit large! We block every horse so they cannot feel the chip going in. You will see that this pony reacts more to the tiny needle containing the lidocaine block than the large needle containing the chip. In real time, this procedure took about 6 minutes.
Q: Why do you do so much cleaning? In dogs, you just inject it.
A: In horses, the microchip is inserted into a structure called the nuchal ligament, ensuring that it doesn't migrate like the chips do in dogs. This ligament does not have a great blood supply, which makes it more prone to infections, should bacteria be inserted. We clip and scrub the area quite well to ensure that the risk of introducing an infection into this ligament is very low. In dogs, the subcutaneous location results in a much lower infection risk, thus, the lack of need of intensive cleaning. (Note that we have never had a horse whose chip got infected.)
Q: Does my horse need to be sedated?
A: No, it would be rare that a horse would need sedation for this procedure.
Q: What happens if I do not renew my registration?
A: When we initially register your chip with Home Again, it (1) places all of you and your horse's information officially on the chip and (2) you get a year of these services through Home Again. If you choose to not renew the registration, which most horse owners do not, your information is still on the chip. It will always be on the chip and scanable no matter what! You do NOT need to keep them registered each year.
Q: How much does it cost?
A: With our recent hurricane threats, we would like to get more horses microchipped, and therefore will be offering microchipping for $45 through the end of hurricane season (November 30, 2017)! Note above that there are no more costs beyond this to maintain it.
Q: Why does it cost this much? I've seen it available much cheaper.
A: Microchipping is not one-size-fits-all. Not only are there different microchips available (if you travel internationally, this matters to you), but the services attached to the microchips are different. We use Home Again microchips, which are ISO compatible (required for international travel). Home Again also has a lot of extra services that benefit their small animal registrants. One benefit we have found for using the Home Again service in horses is the convenience of having your horse registered in the same place as your dogs or cats. If you ever move, you just update one contact! Also note that not all microchipping prices include the cost of registration. Although the chip does not need to stay registered, it does need to initially be registered for your information to be associated with the number on the chip.
If you move: Don't forget to update you contact info on your microchips! They are useless if the contact information is out of date!
Multiple animal households: As mentioned above, you can group ALL of your animals' microchip registrations under one service, no matter what brand chip it is. You just need the number. A fee may apply to transfer the registration, but when you own multiple animals, it's way more convenient!
Other species: You can microchip just about anything! There are designated locations where every species are supposed to be chipped. In horses, it's the left side of the neck, half way up. In alpacas, it's the base of the ear. I'm sure there's a proper location for turtles?
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us! We are on a quest to get more horses microchipped, and are more than happy to address any concerns!