Pet microchip failures on rise
Faulty microchips have been discovered in South Canterbury pets, including in cats that suddenly can't get through their automatic cat doors.
The issue was highlighted this week when Wellington veterinarians told Fairfax they'd seen a "steady stream" of animals with malfunctioning chips.
The tiny identification devices are required by law to be implanted in dogs and can be used to trigger automatic pet doors to allow animals free passage to and from their owners' homes.
In Timaru, Highfield Vet Centre has seen a small but notable percentage of pets with microchips that are not scanning properly, said veterinarian Bryan Gregor.
"We've been checking them as they come through," he said. "If we find any that aren't working we're replacing them at no charge."
The vet centre noticed problems specifically with one brand of microchip it was using regularly, Dr Gregor said. He declined to name the manufacturer of the chip.
But the problem doesn't appear to be isolated to one type, he said, as they'd also found at least one failed chip of a different origin.
"The general advice is if your dog is microchipped, have them checked on your next vet visit," he said.
At Timaru's Family Vet, veterinarian Marnie Crilly said she's encountered three faulty microchips - two in cats and one in a dog.
All three cases involved one brand of microchip, which Dr Crilly said she stopped using some time ago.
The chips had all been implanted at least a year prior to being found to be unreadable, she said.
"I've communicated with the manufacturer of the microchips and they told me they were doing a survey to learn the extent to which this is happening," she said, adding that she has not yet heard any results from that survey.
All three veterinarians recommended that pet owners have their animals' microchips scanned to be sure that they're working properly.
The worst-case scenario, they said, is that a pet would get lost from its owner, picked up by animal control and be euthanised as a stray when its microchip failed to scan.
But a more common issue, Dr Gregor said, is that automatic cat doors no longer activate for cats with failed microchips.
"The cat door scenario is really obvious because all of a sudden the pet is no longer able to get in or out of the home," he said. "We've seen a significant number of the cat door issues which we've worked through."
He added that dogs should also wear registration tags on a collar, and that any pet owners whose animals require a replacement microchip should be sure to update their pet's information in both the national and the district council microchip databases.
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