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Should You Microchip Your Ferrets? Pros & Cons

By Adriane Whelchel

Should You Microchip Your Ferrets? The Pros and Cons.

Is microchipping our ferrets something we as ferrents should be considering? 

Accidents happen and despite the best of ferret-proofing, some ferrets have been able to slip out of the family home. That is especially scary for a ferret owner because an identification tag on a collar is not normal ferret attire.

Unless a ferret is on a leash with their ferrent, a collar should not be worn as seen on dogs and cats because it can pose too many dangers. Having a ferret microchipped is a protective measure that can be made to highly increase the likelihood of them being reunited with their family if they become lost and found away from home. 

A microchip sits on the tip of a finger.

What is a microchip and how is it inserted

Microchipping is a very routine, non-invasive procedure performed on companion animals of all types throughout the world. The microchipping procedure is reasonably priced, costing between $30 to $50 in the United States, £10 to £20 in the United Kingdom, and averages around $35 in Australia. 

The standard microchip is a little larger than a grain of rice and is enclosed in a glass cylinder. The glass cylinder is covered with a special coating to promote bonding to the tissue that way the animal’s body doesn’t recognize it as a foreign substance and rejects it. Using a needle slightly larger than those used for injections, the microchip is inserted under the skin. In the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom the standard implant site is in between the shoulder blades, and in continental Europe, it is in the middle of the neck on the left side between the ear and shoulder. 

Microchipping can be performed as early as 8 weeks old in most countries, but some practitioners prefer to wait until a ferret is a little bigger and do the procedure when they are 12 weeks old. It can be done during a routine wellness check since no surgery or anesthesia is required. 

However, some ferrets may become quite squirmy and a light sedative may be recommended to ensure safe and proper insertion. If a ferret is scheduled to undergo a surgical procedure, many people choose to have them microchipped at this time while they are under anesthesia. It is a relatively painless procedure, but they may experience some discomfort that is comparable to that of an ordinary injection.

How a microchip works

Many people mistakenly believe a microchip works like GPS to track a lost pet, but that is not the case as it is not a tracking device. A microchip is a transponder that becomes active only when a scanner is passed by it. The microchip will then send an identification number to the scanner, and it’s this number that helps animal rescue groups, shelters, and veterinary clinics get a lost pet back home. After the identification number is obtained the company the microchip is registered with is then contacted. The registry will either provide the facility with the contact information linked with that identification number or the registry will contact the owner.

The cons of microchipping

Although microchipping has shown to be very safe, it doesn’t come without the slight possibility of some issues. In 1996 the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) began a database to keep track of reported adverse effects. During a span of 15 years (1996-2011) there were over 4 million animals microchipped and there were only 391 reactions reported. The most common issue reported was movement of the microchip from the original insertion site. This is usually caused by incorrect insertion technique. Other issues reported to the BSAVA in lower numbers include – chip failure, hair loss, infection, swelling, and tumor formation. Though very rare, there have been spinal cord injuries reported as a result of improper placement techniques.

Another issue that may occur despite the microchip functioning properly and correct positioning is the inability of the microchip to be read by the scanner. This may occur if the animal has long matted hair around the chip site, excessive fat deposits in the chip region, the animal is wearing a collar made entirely or mostly of metal, or when the microchip and the scanner being used are incompatible.

The microchip/scanner incompatibility issue

The microchip frequency is important to understand if you live in a country that doesn’t have regulations stating all microchips must be the same frequency. Microchip frequency is the frequency of the radio waves given off by the scanner to activate the microchip. The International Standards Organization (ISO) has a global standard for microchips, 134.2 kHz. This standard intends to make an identification system that is consistent in all countries. Australia is a country that requires all implanters use only ISO compatible microchips, whereas in the United States there is no regulation, and microchip frequencies of 125 kHz, 128 kHz and 134.2 kHz are used. Countries like the United States may experience the scanner/microchip incompatibility issue if facilities are using a scanner that is only compatible with one specific frequency. The forward-reading scanner only detects a microchip with a frequency of 134.2 kHz, the international standard. The forward-and-backward-reading scanner, or universal scanner, is capable of reading all frequencies but unfortunately, not all facilities have one of these. 

I spoke to ten different rescue shelters and I asked them what type of scanner their facility used; 8 facilities used a universal scanner and 2 used a forward-reading scanner. The two facilities using the forward-reading scanner both said they would like to switch to a universal scanner in the future but high facility operating costs have not allowed them to fit a replacement into their budget. Hopefully, in time all facilities will switch over to the universal scanner.

What to do after microchipping

Three things that need to be done after the microchip has been inserted:

  1.  Get the chip registered – Registries are different everywhere; some may charge a one-time fee for as long as you have your ferret or some charge an annual fee. It is important to register the microchip and keep the registration valid because this is the only thing linking you to your ferret in the event of accidental separation
  2. Have the microchip scanned once a year – This confirms that the microchip has remained in the correct position and that it is working properly
  3. Keep contact information current – One of the main reasons that microchipped pets don’t reunite with their family is because the contact information is incorrect. Anytime there is a change the registry should be updated as soon as possible. It should be noted that some registries do charge a fee to update information

The benefits of microchipping far outweigh the risks and it is a great protective measure that won’t break the bank. As ferrents we do some very creative things to protect our little ones, and microchipping is one more thing we can do.

Further reading

“Microchipping of Animals FAQ.” American Veterinary Medical Association.
Accessed on 16 September 2020. (Web page)

“Implantation.” British Small Animal Veterinary Association. www.bsava.com/Resources/Veterinary-resources/Microchipping/Implantation
Accessed on 16 September 2020. (Web page)

“Adverse Reactions.” British Small Animal Veterinary Association.
Accessed 16 September 2020. (Web page)

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