Microchipping of dogs

What’s the issue?

Microchipping is a safe, effective, and permanent way to make sure that lost pets can be reunited with their owners, and since 2016, following our campaigning as a founding member of the Microchipping Alliance, it has been compulsory for all dogs in the UK to be microchipped and registered on an authorised database by the time they are 8 weeks old.

However, it is the owner's responsibility to make sure that their contact details are kept up to date, and there are currently 14 national databases with which pet owners can choose to register their animals.

Our 2017 Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey revealed that where attempts by vets to reunite stray dogs with their owner failed it was either because there was no identifying microchip or collar/tag (50%) or the information held on the microchip database had not been kept up to date (44%).

There has been some criticism of the profession from campaigners for compulsory scanning. Unfortunately, such campaigns misunderstand the powers of vets and the potential welfare harms of compulsory scanning to both animals and humans

What’s our view?

Vets play a key role in helping to reunite lost or stolen animals with their owners, and should exercise their professional judgement, based on the information available to them, when choosing whether to scan a microchip. Vets must also operate within their powers, so cannot seize or hold a dog suspected as stolen, nor can they share confidential ownership information.

We recommend that veterinary practices should scan for a microchip under the following circumstances:

  • Prior to microchip implantation – to ensure that there is no other microchip present.
  • On presentation of a lost, stray or apparently unowned animal – to facilitate reunification when checked against the national databases, providing the owner has kept their details up-to-date.
  • On first presentation at the practice – to ensure that the animal is correctly identified when checked against the national databases.
  • Before travelling abroad – to ensure that the microchip is still working and has not migrated significantly
  • Before rabies vaccination or official certification.
  • Annually as routine (eg at the time of the annual check-up and/or booster vaccination) –to ensure that the microchip is still working and has not migrated significantly.
  • On admission for treatment or hospitalisation where appropriate – as part of good clinical practice to ensure that the patient is matched to clinical records.
  • Prior to euthanasia if considered appropriate – as part of good clinical practice to ensure that the patient is matched to clinical records. 

Where there is an ownership dispute or an animal is suspected stolen, we advise vets to follow the RCVS Client confidentiality and microchipped animals flowchart.

Position on microchip scanning (dogs) and databases

Compulsory microchipping of dogs: additional guidance for vets

Report a microchip adverse event

Microchipping awareness resources

Microchipping poster - update your details