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How Does a Computer Chip in a Dog Work?

| Updated September 26, 2017


A computer microchip can be injected into a dog in order to provide permanent identification and ownership information. The microchip, which is roughly as large as a rice grain, is actually known as a radio frequency identification chip (RFID), a type of transponder. It is injected under the skin, usually at the back of the neck. If the dog gets lost, an animal control officer, animal shelter worker, or veterinarian can read the chip's information through the use of a scanner wand.


Computer chips in dogs contain a tiny antenna. When a scanner wand is run over the chip, it gives off low frequency radio waves. The antenna picks up the waves and retrieves and decodes the chip's number. This information appears in a display window on the scanner. The person who performed the scan can contact the chip company with the number and get contact information for the dog's owner.


There are two main types of computer chips for dogs, the AVID and the HomeAgain. Both perform the same function, but they are each made by a different manufacturer and are thus encoded differently. The scanner for Avid chips cannot read HomeAgain chips, and the reverse is also true. However, even if the computer chip cannot be read, the scanner will indicate that it is there. Many animal shelters, veterinarians and animal control officers have both types of scanning wands so they can read either type of chip.


The insertion of a computer chip in a dog is safe and painless. It is similar to the vaccination process. The chips work in a way that is not at all harmful to the dog. The main risk is that the chip could move in its position under the skin, meaning that a person scanning the dog would not find it. It can also become demagnetized, which would make it unreadable. Because many veterinarians have chip readers, you can ask your vet to check your dog's computer chip to make sure it's still in position and working when you bring the animal in for its regular check-up.