And many rescue dogs are microchipped before rehoming
But that leaves a great many puppies and older dogs still unchipped in the UK today.
Opinions vary as to the benefits and even disadvantages of microchipping our four legged friends.
In our article today, we take at what is involved and what the effects of microchipping may be.
What is involved
The microchip itself, is quite small, about the size of a grain of rice. It is inserted under the skin on the back of your Labrador’s neck, just between his shoulder blades.
A fairly substantial needle is required for this purpose, and though some may claim insertion does not hurt, I suspect that most dogs do find it a bit painful, albeit momentarily.
How does it work
The microchip uses Radio Frequency Identification technology (RFID) to store information and to enable that information to be read by a special ‘scanner’.
This is very futuristic technology and even more efficient than say, the barcodes we have on our supermarket purchases. Check out this article for more info
Pet microchips contain details unique to your Labrador. These details allow him to be identified as yours, by anyone with an appropriate scanner
What are the benefits of microchipping?
The main benefit to your dog is that should he get lost or even be stolen, he is more likely to be returned to you, than he would be if he were not chipped.
The benefits to society of widespread microchipping are hotly debated and a common topic of discussion. We’ll look at these below.
Are there disadvantages to microchipping?
You may have heard stories about microchips causing cancer. Katherine Albrecht a media commentator and privacy campaigner has produced a review of the data.
Studies show that there a small risk, of a microchip causing a tumour in a chipped rat or mouse. The large studies done on rats and mice and found a risk of between 0.8% and 10%.
However, detractors claim that these were laboratory rodents which were already genetically predisposed to developing tumours, and conclude that the results cannot be used to make any assumptions about dogs
In fact, several studies on dogs have been done that contradict these findings in rodents, though Albrecht claims that these involved either very small samples of dogs or studied the implant over a much shorter time span than the experiments with laboratory animals.
One thing is certain, people are very quick to come forward when their dog is made ill through medical interventions of any kind, and yet there is little anecdotal evidence of dogs popping up all over the place with tumours at the site of their chips.
Hopefully this means that the risk is really very rare indeed, and of course needs to be compared with the considerable risk that your dog will never be returned to you should he get lost without a chip.
Some people believe that mandatory microchipping will solve the problem of stray dogs and enable us to identify dog owners that were irresponsible or who own out of control animals.
Others believe that such owners will not comply with mandatory microchipping regulations and will therefore remain ‘outside the net’.
Those against mandatory chipping also point out that dogs which are deliberately stolen are unlikely to benefit from microchips, as vets will not usually scan new patients unless the owners request it. (And the person that has stolen your dog is hardly likely to do this!)
Microchipping is already mandatory in some countries, and mandatory microchipping is being considered in others.
In the UK the government aim to bring in compulsory microchipping for all dogs by April 2016
In fact the government estimate that nearly 60% of all UK dogs are already microchipped
Whatever our views may be, it is clear that universal microchipping is on its way. So it is a question of when rather than if, you microchip your dog. Bearing that in mind, let’s look at the practicalities
Who can microchip my dog?
A microchip needs to be inserted by a trained technician. (It is not necessary to have the procedure carried out by a veterinary surgeon, though most of us probably do).
The technician will then send the relevant paperwork to Petlog where your details and your pet’s unique microchip ID are stored.
The Kennel Club runs the Petlog service, which is a central database of microchip information.
This is essential because there are several different chip manufactures. A central source enables all lost dogs to be quickly identified and reunited with their owners.
What about cost?
You pay a fee to the implanter, and a fee to be registered with Petlog. If you are getting the chip inserted by your vet, it is probably a good idea to have it done when you go along for your annual booster so that you only pay for the one consultation.
The total cost at the time of writing, is usually less than £30.
Training as an implanter
Becoming a pet microchip implanter is not difficult or particularly expensive, and if you are a dog breeder or groomer, you may want to consider going through the training and offering this service yourself.
Courses are privately run and take place all over the country.
The future of microchipping
There is potential in the future for microchips to allow access to data that could be used for all kinds of purposes. Indeed, this is one of the concerns of privacy campaigners. Health records are one example.
And already there is technology which enables pet doors to allow pets selective access into and out of our homes by reading our pet’s microchip ID.
Who knows what else may lie ahead?
How about you?
Is your Labrador microchipped yet? Are you planning to have him chipped soon? And what do you think of compulsory microchipping for UK dogs?
The Labrador Site is brought to you by Pippa Mattinson. Pippa's latest book The Happy Puppy Handbook is a definitive guide to early puppy care and training