A guide to microchipping your pet

Today, showing you’re a responsible owner now includes making sure your pet is microchipped. Here’s the lowdown on the law and the advantages of microchipping.

Today, showing you’re a responsible owner now includes making sure your pet is microchipped. Here’s the lowdown on the law and the advantages of microchipping.

Mubina Pirmohamed
Insurance expert
minute read
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Posted 1 JUNE 2021

What is pet microchipping?

Pet microchipping is a way to permanently identify your pet, especially useful if they go missing. 

A tiny microchip implant is inserted under the skin of your pet, usually near the scruff of their neck. The chip has a unique code which can be used to identify the pet and match them with their owner’s details stored on a central database. 

If your pet is found and taken to an animal shelter or vet clinic, the microchip will be scanned to find your contact details, so you can be reunited as quickly as possible.

Is microchipping my pet compulsory?

All dogs have to be microchipped by law and the Government has put forward proposals to make microchipping cats compulsory. It estimates that over a quarter of the UK’s pet cats aren’t microchipped, meaning 2.6 million cats would need to be microchipped if the plans become law. A public consultation on the plans closed in January 2021.

Why is microchipping my dog important?

Microchipping gives you the best chance of being reunited with your beloved pet if they go missing. 

Thousands of dogs wander off or are stolen every year, causing a lot of heartbreak and distress for many owners. If a dog is found by a local authority dog warden, it’ll be checked for microchipping. But if its name-collar has fallen off and  the dog isn’t microchipped, there’d be no way for the authorities to contact the owner. After seven days, your dog could be passed on to a rehoming charity. 

Why should I microchip my cat?

It’s not uncommon for cats to stray, leaving their owners heartbroken. Eight out of every 10 cats handed into Cats Protection adoption centres in 2018 were unchipped, according to the charity. This meant it took longer to reunite them with their owners, and sometimes this couldn’t be done at all.

Microchipping your cat (and dog) is one of the requirements for taking your pet with you if you’re travelling to the EU.

What’s the law on microchipping your dog?

Since 2016, it's been a legal requirement  in the UK for owners to make sure their dog is microchipped. It’s estimated that around nine million UK dogs are now microchipped. 

Microchipping needs to be done by the time the dog is eight weeks old.

The microchip must be fitted by an approved professional like a private vet or a vet from a registered animal charity. The details on the chip must then be registered on a Government-approved database.

You must also make sure that the details on the database are up to date. 

As well as being microchipped, your dog must also wear a collar and tag with your name and address on it when in a public place. 

If you don’t get your dog microchipped and registered on a Government-approved database, you could be fined up to £500. 

Why else should I get my dog microchipped?

As well as it being a legal requirement, a dog will need to be microchipped for the following purposes:

  • Buying a dogPuppies must be microchipped and registered by a breeder, before the breeder can sell the puppy to you. The breeder should also provide you with the microchipping paperwork and certificate before you take the puppy home. Make sure you update the microchip details on the registered database once you become the official keeper. 
  • Travelling with your dog – if you’re taking your dog to an EU country or Northern Ireland, they must be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. You’ll need an Animal Health Certificate from your vet confirming microchipping and vaccinations. You can read our guide to taking your pet abroad.
  • Pet insurance - your dog must be microchipped to get pet insurance. Although most polices won’t cover the cost of microchipping, many offer ‘lost and found’ cover to help fund adverts, for example, to find a lost or stolen pet – but only for pets that are microchipped. 

Do I have to microchip my cat to get pet insurance?

No, but insurance providers will ask if your cat is microchipped and you may get a discount if they are. (You won’t be able to get pet insurance for a dog unless it’s microchipped.)

Did you know? 

If your dog is found by the police or local authority not to have a microchip, you'll be given the chance to have it done – but if you don't comply within a short period of time, you could be fined up to £500.

Are there any exceptions to microchipping your dog?

There are only two reasons why you shouldn’t microchip your dog:

  • You have a working dog with a tail docked in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act (2006). But the puppy should be microchipped by the 12th week following the docking of its tail.
  • Your dog’s health would be compromised by microchipping

If your dog’s too unwell to be microchipped, your vet can give you an exemption certificate. You’ll need to have your dog microchipped once this expires, unless another certificate is given.

If you’re a breeder and aren’t able to microchip a puppy for health reasons, you can still sell the dog at eight weeks, but it must be accompanied by the vet’s certificate of exemption.

Is it compulsory to microchip your cat?

Not currently, although microchipping cats may soon become law. You can, of course, get your cat, or rabbit, microchipped if you want to.

Even though it’s not yet a legal requirement, it’s still a very good idea to microchip your cat, particularly if they like to roam outside, as it increases the chances of them being found if they go missing or are stolen.

How does microchipping work?

Your vet will implant the microchip under your pet’s skin, usually between the shoulder blades. It’s only the size of a grain of rice. Each microchip has a protective shell to stop it causing a reaction or moving around.
Microchipping is a fast procedure that only takes a few seconds.

The microchip should last as long as your pet’s lifetime.

Will microchipping hurt my pet?

The process is quick and shouldn’t cause your pet any distress. However, it does involve a needle, so it might be slightly uncomfortable for a few seconds – just like vaccinations.

Will the microchip track my pet if it gets lost?

No. The microchip isn’t a tracking device, but because its unique code will be registered along with your details, it can help the authorities reunite you with your pet.

How much does microchipping cost?

It can vary, but usually vets charge around £15 to microchip your pet.

The following charities will microchip your dog for free:

How do I update my pet’s microchip details?

It’s vital you keep your pet’s microchip details current and up to date. If you move home for example, you’ll need to contact the database you’re registered with and give them your new details.

You might be charged a small administration fee to do this – usually between £6 to £20.

If you forget which database your pet is registered on, you can find out by visiting the Check-a-Chip website.

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