Microchips are an inexpensive method for identifying horses and donkeys, providing an effective way to reunite owners with their equines in the event of theft, natural disaster or other loss. Some microchip companies allow adoption centers to remain as a back-up contact on the chip, providing an extra safety net for each animal.
The recent launch of the universal Equine Microchip Lookup Tool makes microchipping more efficient. And with more breed and sport associations requiring microchips, they are becoming the norm and are even required in some states, including Louisiana.
Veterinarians at the ASPCA receive a lot of questions about microchipping horses and donkeys—below are the most common ones with helpful answers.
Q: How do I scan for a microchip?
A: First, ensure that your microchip scanner can read both 125 kHz and 134.2 kHz chips.
Scan the left side of the horse or donkey in a serpentine pattern, moving left to right and then top to bottom. The microchip should be in the nuchal ligament (up near the mane) about halfway between the poll and the withers but be sure to scan the entire length of the neck. Although rare, it has been reported that the chips will occasionally move around.
Q: Does the skin need to be numbed before the microchip is implanted?
A: No, it is not required. It can be done, but be aware that most local anesthetics will cause vasodilation and may increase the risk of bleeding, so it’s not routinely recommended.
Q: Are there any special considerations for the animals immediately after a microchip is implanted?
A: To allow the anti-migration technology time to secure itself to the surrounding tissue and increase the chance that the microchip will stay in place, we recommend that the horse or donkey not be bathed, groomed, petted (in the area of microchip implantation), tacked up, or receive injections in the neck for the first 24 hours post-implantation.
Q Do the scanners used to detect cat and dog microchips detect equine microchips—or do you need a specialized scanner?
A: You do not need a specialized scanner to pick up equine microchips for a very simple reason. The same microchip used for a dog or a cat (or a ferret or a lizard) is the same microchip that is implanted in a horse or donkey. As long as you have a scanner that detects both 125 kHz and 134.2 kHz chips, you are all set to scan equines.
Q: How do I know that the microchip number is unique to the horse or donkey and can’t be changed?
A: Microchips are permanent identification because they can’t be altered. The microchip number is encoded into the microchip when it is manufactured. The microchip is then implanted under the skin and into the nuchal ligament of the neck of the horse or donkey. At this point, the microchip cannot be tampered with. Each microchip number is a unique sequence. It is a 10-digit alphanumeric sequence with the 125 kHz chips and a 15-digit numerical sequence with the 134.2 kHz chips.