Written by: Tom Lenz, DVM, MS, DACT
A lot of you have had microchips implanted in your domestic pets, but have you had your horses chipped yet? Microchipping, as a form of permanent identification, was discussed by the horse industry 10 or 15 years ago, but did not gain traction due to a lot of unfounded myths and the lack of a universal reader that could read the various types of microchips.
A universal reader has resolved the problem of reading the various microchips. Microchips are a benefit to the industry and horse owners and they improve the health and welfare of our horses.
Microchips are electronic devices the size of a grain of rice that are easily implanted after local anesthesia in the horse's nuchal ligament (just below the base of the mane) halfway between the horse's poll and withers. A hand-held radio frequency scanner reads the number. It's like a VIN (vehicle identification number) for your horse.
Here are some of the benefits:
- It's a permanent ID that cannot be separated from your horse or altered.
- Microchips help prevent theft and aid in recovery during disasters. Louisiana requires that all horses be tested for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) and microchipped.
- Provides a mobile link to online health certificates and medical records.
- Provides accuracy at competitions and prevents fraud. Many horse registries and show organizers have started requiring that participating horses be microchipped to ensure that the horses' ID, age and past participation are accurate.
- Traceability in the event of a disease outbreak.
- Identification for sales documentation and transfers.
Here are some additional facts:
- Microchips are implanted with a needle. It would require deep, invasive surgery and general anesthesia to remove the chip. It also would be extremely difficult to locate and remove a microchip.
- Magnets will not deactivate the chip. Microchips are read-only and provide only the animal's identification number. No additional information about the horse is stored on the microchip, and they do not have a power supply.
- According to a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, microchips implanted in the nuchal ligament do not migrate.
- Extensive studies both here and in England over the last 20 years have demonstrated that microchips do not cause cancer.
- Microchips are read-only and do not contain a GPS.
- Most veterinarians charge $35 to $60 to implant a microchip, which most often includes the cost of the microchip. Since microchips last at least 25 years, this one-time fee should be valid for the life of the horse.
Starting in January 2017, the Jockey Club requires all Thoroughbred foals be microchipped. Beginning December 1, 2017, all horses competing in U.S. Equestrian Federation-licensed and/or U.S. Hunter Jumper Association-sanctioned competitions with hunter-jumper seat equitation classes must by microchipped.
We should do the same with all of our horses.
Article provided courtesy of AAEP-Alliance Partner, AQHA.