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Published: Dec 06, 2012

The thought of losing a pet is a nightmare for most owners, which is why there are so many pet identification methods to ensure a safe journey home should they get lost. Identification tags are no help to your pet if she loses her collar in her frightening trek, and identifying tattoos can be overlooked under masses of fur if your pet is brought to a shelter.

Fortunately, owners can now microchip their pets, a method of identification that has proven more effective than any other technique put forth in the past. Here is what you need to know about microchips for pets.

What is a microchip?
Microchips contain a form of automatic identification technology similar to bar codes or magnetic strips, according to Animal Planet. They are capable of storing information such as your name, address and phone number, and are implanted under your pet's skin. If your furry friend were brought to a shelter, veterinary hospital or animal rescue organization, the staff would be able to scan her for a microchip, see your information and contact you so you can be reunited as soon as possible.

How can I get my pet microchipped?
You can contact a local VCA Animal Hospital to inquire about microchips and schedule an appointment to get one implanted. The process is much like that of dog and cat vaccinations - the chip is injected into the pet's skin using a needle, in the same place as many shots. Using a sterile applicator, the microchip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, is implanted underneath the skin at the back of the pet's neck, right between her shoulder blades.

What can I expect at the appointment?
Before your veterinarian inserts the microchip or even takes it out of the packaging, he or she will scan it to confirm that its identification code matches that shown on the package's bar code label. The sterile needle containing the chip is then loaded into an application gun or syringe. Then, with your pet standing or lying on her stomach, the vet will pull some loose skin in the injection area and insert the chip, just like a shot.

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, the procedure is fast, safe and appears to be pain-free in most pets. You can choose to have the microchip implanted in your puppy or kitten when you bring her in for her cat or dog spaying appointment, so this process can be completed while she is anesthetized. However, it is not necessary for pets to be under anesthesia during a microchip implantation, the organization reports.

Don't forget to register your pet and your contact information with the appropriate agency. Your veterinarian will give you the documents you need to do this. You should also always remember to update your pet's microchip data if you move or change your phone number.