5 Side Effects of Microchipping a Dog

Microchips revolutionized the safety of dogs by making the difference between finding your lost dog and not finding them.

Microchips are quite simple. They are about the size of a grain of rice and are inserted into between your dog’s shoulder blades in most cases. Each chip is programmed with a code. This code is connected to your identifying information in a database. Should your dog get lost, a vet or animal shelter can scan for this microchip.

Despite all the benefits, when you’re injecting your dog with anything, there are bound to be side effects. Luckily, these microchips are very safe by all accounts. We’ll dive into the side effects they are associated with below.Divider 8

1. Failure of the Microchip

veterinarian holding a dog
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Though this doesn’t necessarily injure your pooch, microchips do fail occasionally. It is widespread for microchips to migrate after they are implanted. While this does sound dangerous, migration is typically harmless. With that said, microchips can sometimes end up somewhere dangerous.

However, it does mean that the microchip could end up anywhere. This is why a dog’s whole body is scanned when searching for a microchip. It’s just impossible to tell where it will end up.

In this way, microchips can be missed during scanning. This is most common when an improper scanning technique is used, or when the dog’s whole body is not scanned. Most microchips will be found when the dog is scanned correctly, though.  Most scanners are quite sensitive and can detect almost 100% of microchips when used correctly.

On a separate note, sometimes, microchips can fail. They may stop working for several reasons or end up somewhere in your pet’s body that the scanners cannot reach. This doesn’t hurt your dog directly, but it can prevent them from finding their way back home.


2. Hair Loss

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This is a minor side effect that usually resolves quickly. Hair loss is usually at the site of injection and resolves within a few weeks or months. The hair loss usually does not bother the dog and is not accompanied by itchiness or anything.

Your dog may be more prone to this side effect if they have sensitive skin. However, no extensive studies have been done to review this side effect thoroughly, so we don’t know exactly how it works. The American Veterinary Medical Association does list it as a side effect, however.


3. Infection

skin allergy on dog's paw
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Infections can happen during any medical procedure, including implants and injections of all sorts. Because injecting the microchip creates a hole in the skin, an infection can set up in the area. The implant itself does not cause it, but it is caused by the needle used to insert the microchip.

This is one reason why only vets and similar personal should implant microchips. If someone inexperienced does it, the chance of infection might rise.

Luckily, these infections are rare and usually minor. We were not able to find any record of a canine dying of one of these infections. It seems that most are treated with antibiotics.

Your best bet is to keep an eye on the injection site for a few weeks after the procedure. At the first sign of infection, you should contact your vet.


4. Swelling

sick jack russell
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Swelling is common directly after the procedure. Just like your arm might swell a bit after receiving a shot, our dogs may swell a bit after being injected with a microchip. This is a normal and minor side effect of procedures of this kind. Almost all medical procedures involving needles have a chance of swelling afterward, so this is not a side effect that is only tied to microchips.

Overall, this is a minor side effect that does not usually bother the dog very much. Often, they don’t even know the swelling is there. Most swelling that occurs is minor and resolves itself after a few days.


5. Tumor Formation

sick dog
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There has been a lot of misinformation on the internet about tumors and microchips lately. There are plenty of websites out there that will warn you not to microchip your pets because they might develop cancer. In these situations, it is essential to read the actual research and rely on medical facts – not speculation.  

The primary study most people seem to be referring to regarding cancer and microchips is one that recently came out of the United Kingdom. This study followed a variety of microchipped pets for 15 years. During this period, two animals developed cancerous tumors in the area of their microchip. This may sound scary, but you must understand that this is a minuscule percentage of dogs. Thousands of dogs were involved in this study, and two developed a tumor. That isn’t many at all!

Your pet is much more likely to get lost or end up hit by a car than developing cancer because of their microchip. The danger of not getting your dog microchipped is much greater.

Furthermore, scientists have not proven that the tumors were from the microchip itself. It is equally as likely that a tumor just happened to develop around the same area as the microchip. There is no way to prove how the tumor developed.

Many people point to reports in mice and rats developing tumors in microchips as well. However, these studies are done on rats that are known to be more likely to develop cancer. Plus, the microchips are much more extensive compared to a rat than they are to a dog. It would be like implanting something the size of your finger into your dog. Side effects are going to be more common in this case.

In the end, the tumors that have been reported occur in a tiny percentage of dogs (somewhere around 0.0001%). Furthermore, many of these tumors may not necessarily involve the microchip. It may be a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.


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