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How to scan for a microchip

Best practice ensures the most consistent results.

It is extremely important for any scanner operator to know how to properly scan for a microchip, and is aware of how scanners work, and their limitations. For more information see our page on How does a microchip scanner work? In order to proCommon migration zonesperly assess whether an animal has a microchip we recommend the technique discussed on this page. Microchips that have been incorrectly implanted have been documented to migrate to many different areas, so correct and thorough scanning every time is crucial to ensure animals are not implanted with more than one microchip or deemed strays and rehomed when this is not the case. 

Microchips implanted in companion animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits and ferrets are placed under the skin in the midline directly between the shoulder blades. As such, this area should be scanned in the first instance (Zone A).

Microchips may migrate if implanted in an incorrect location in the first instance, therefore it is most important before microchipping any animal that you also scan Zone B and Zone C as these are common areas of migration. Microchips that have been incorrectly implanted in the scruff are likely to migrate around the neck and onto the front of the shoulders or chest.  Microchips wrongly implanted over the side of either shoulder (instead of inbetween) are likely to migrate down either respective leg, so it is important that these areas are thoroughly checked. Finally, Zone D – (the rest of the body) should be scanned.

Remember to hold the scanner over the surface of the animal at all times when scanning; all scanners should be held in contact with the fur or skin.

Scan slowly –  the scanner needs time to transmit the signal and the microchip needs time to respond. The scanner should be held parallel to the skin for our models (this may vary so check the individual scanner model).

The scanner should be held against the skin and moved in small circular motions over the animal; this action helps maximise the potential for microchip orientation and successful scanning. Full body scan

If the microchip isn’t present in the usual area (Diagram A), or the most common areas of migration then the rest of the animal should be thoroughly scanned.

For a full body scan we first recommend scanning in a slow S shaped pattern down the back of the animal in a transverse direction (Diagram B), before repeating the action in the same pattern in a longitudinal direction on both sides of the animal (Diagrams C and D). If a microchip is still not found, then proceed to slowly scan the chest and abdomen also. Microchips have been documented to migrate to many different areas if implanted in an improper location; and anyone who is going to be using a microchip scanner must learn to scan properly and thoroughly.

Vets, rescues, dog wardens and any organisation which is likely to encounter stray animals or those leaving the country should use a universal microchip scanner to ensure they can identify any microchip the animal may have inserted. Older or foreign animals may not have a standard FDX-B microchip implanted.

Our Universal Scanner will read ALL microchip types suitable for use in animals - click here for more information. Please be aware that universal scanners have to scan across different frequencies, and so need enough time to ensure the scanner can cycle through the different frequencies needed to pick up some foreign and encrypted microchips.

This scanning technique can be modified to suit the species of animal being scanned, as long as scanning is carried out slowly, using a methodical pattern and with the scanner kept in contact with the animal. Implant sites also vary for different species, so when scanning a particular animal the operator needs to be aware of where the normal implant site for that species may be. A list can be obtained from the WSAVA, or implanters can refer to ISO 65139 – 1.