Before scanning an animal, check that the scanner is working and that you know the correct orientation for the make of scanner being used to maximise the likelihood of detection of the microchip. It may be appropriate to remove the dog’s collar before scanning, both to avoid interference and because there have been reports of microchips being inserted into the collar rather than the dog for smuggling purposes.

The microchip scanner should be passed slowly over the surface of the animal, moving the scanner in an ‘S’ shaped pattern over the dorsum of the animal. Scanning should begin and concentrate over the standard implantation site in the UK, which is midway between the shoulder blades (this should take 10–20 seconds). If no chip is detected, rotate the scanner by 90 degrees and rescan the animal.

If the microchip is not detected here, you should scan down the left side of the neck (the standard implantation side in Europe) then down the back, on the sides, over the shoulders and down to the elbows.

If a microchip is still not detected where there is evidence that a microchip has been implanted, the following should be considered:

  • Scan other areas of the body to see if the microchip has migrated. Start at the pet’s head, and slowly scan side-to-side all the way to the pet’s tail, making several passes over each area. Then, slowly scan down the sides of the pet‘s leg, across its neck, along and under its chest and behind its front legs;
  • Change the orientation of the scanner and rescan the animal;
  • Rescan the animal with a different scanner.

If it is found that a dog has not been microchipped after the introduction of compulsory microchipping the veterinary surgeon does not have any responsibility to report the owner but whenever possible should advise the owner of their legal responsibility to have the dog microchipped. We would recommend that this advice is recorded in the animal’s clinical record.

There is currently no requirement for a veterinary surgeon to scan a dog for a microchip except before rabies vaccination and the issuing of a Pet Passport, or completing other official documentation that requires identification of the animal. However, there are many circumstances in which it is advisable to do so:

  • Prior to implanting a microchip, in order to ensure that no microchip is present;
  • When a lost or stray animal is presented, in order to facilitate reunification with the owner;
  • To ensure that a previously implanted microchip is still working and has not migrated significantly from its site of implantation. This is particularly important before an animal travels abroad;
  • On first presentation at the practice, in order to ensure that the animal is correctly identified;
  • Prior to carrying out official health screening/tests – to ensure that the animal is correctly identified. Many tests require the microchip number to be included on the form, and in the case of radiographs for BVA/KC schemes the microchip number must be radiographed on to the film at the time of exposure.

Very occasionally veterinary professionals may become aware that the animal presented is registered to another keeper. While it is not essential or even always possible to obtain consent from an owner before scanning, consideration should be given to how these issues will be dealt with. The RCVS provides guidance on how to deal with issues relating to microchipping, including potential ownership disputes in the guidance supporting the Codes of Professional Conduct for veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses. They have also produced a flow chart outlining how to deal with issues relating to microchipping and client confidentiality in difficult situations, such as where the animal may have been stolen or in potential ownership disputes. This advice covers:

    • Seeking prior agreement to disclose
    • Seeking consent to disclose
    • What to do when consent is not given.

The BSAVA recommends that in most circumstances the veterinary practice should only disclose information to the database provider so as to minimise the likelihood of being drawn into any ownership dispute. The RCVS states that if it is suspected that the animal is stolen, veterinary surgeons or the owner may involve the police. In the case of a potential dispute we recommend that you:

1. Read the RCVS guidance in detail
2. Consult your professional indemnity provider
3. Keep detailed notes.