Q: How does my dog’s microchip track its location?
A: While the idea of a microchip acting like a tracking device sounds fantastic, microchips don’t track a pet’s location like a GPS does. This is a common misconception that we hear a lot in our hospital.
The microchips we use are a form of permanent identification as they enable radio frequency identification (RFID) of a pet. Almost all veterinarians and animal shelters have scanners that recognize the microchip’s ID number, which is unique to that individual pet.
A GPS would require a battery, but our RFID microchips do not require batteries or serviceable components. Because of this, these chips will last the life of your pet without maintenance. The implantation procedure is quick, easy and does not require sedation. However, it can be somewhat startling to a person when they first see the microchip implant needle because it is so large.
Since microchip scanners only receive an ID number from the microchips (not the owner’s contact information), it is very, very important that this ID number is properly registered with the current pet owner with the appropriate contact information in the registry.
It is very common for a stray animal to be presented to check for the presence of a microchip. We are always happy when the scanner beeps with a positive signal and receives an ID number. We use this ID number to call the microchip manufacturer to identify the owner. When we call, we often learn that the microchip was last registered with a shelter that managed the chip or a previous pet owner, rather than the current owner.
Most of the time, we can still find the owner using the microchip implanter who managed the chip.
So if you move or change phone numbers, please remember to call your pet’s microchip company so they can keep their registration updated.
Q: Does this seem like a particularly tough season for fleas and ticks?
A: We see fleas and ticks on pets in our hospital every day, several times a day. When it’s freezing cold, fleas can’t survive outside for long in winter. But our winters have been milder lately and fleas are fantastic at taking a ride on our pets to get into our warm homes to complete their life cycle and produce eggs.
Ticks are an increasing problem in Ohio as tick populations and tick-borne diseases increase. Lyme disease is an example of a tick-borne disease. In the case of canine Lyme disease, fewer than 3,000 cases were reported in Ohio in 2017. But just three years later, in 2020, over 12,000 cases were reported in Ohio.
As early as the first three months of 2021, over 3,800 positive cases of Lyme disease in dogs were registered in Ohio. It’s estimated that these numbers only account for about 30% of actual cases, as many vets only test for Lyme disease when a pet is showing symptoms, but only 10% of dogs with Lyme disease show symptoms at the onset of the disease.
Lyme disease is much less common in cats. In fact, we haven’t had a single positive case of Lyme disease in cats in our hospital. Cats show signs of the disease similar to dogs when they become infected, but are much less likely to show signs than dogs.
Cats are resistant to the infection that causes Lyme disease, but some cats have immune deficiencies that can allow infection. If your cat spends time outdoors, it is important to use an appropriate tick repellent.
We often use capcvet.org as a resource for monitoring tick progression. It contains prevalence maps by state and district. The maps can be viewed chronologically for a strong and clear picture of the growing number of ticks starting in southeast Ohio and moving north.
Ticks are active at temperatures up to 32 degrees. Ticks spend most of their life outside in the environment, not on an animal. When a tick is looking for a host, it climbs onto higher vegetation and literally stretches out its forelegs. She’s waiting for your pet to pass so they can hold on. There is a common misconception that ticks can jump; You definitely can’t, but fleas sure can. Ticks simply rely on a host to paint against them.
Since we know that flea and tick activity is common during the rest of the year, it is no doubt a good idea to use a preventative to help keep pets safe and healthy. We like to use isoxazoline class drugs in our hospital. We find they are very effective with very rare side effects and our dogs look forward to taking their flea / tick pills as a treat every month.
Drs. Josh and Marya Teders are the owners of the NorthArlington Animal Clinic in Upper Arlington. To ask them a question, email Becky Kover (email@example.com) and include the pet question in the subject line.