Commentary

Benefits of Microchipping Horses

Benefits of Microchipping Horses

Microchips, about the size of a grain of rice, is implanted halfway between the horse’s poll and withers, just below the mane in the nuchal ligament on the horse’s near side.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

With the growing occurrence and unpredictable nature of natural disasters, many horse owners are looking for ways to protect their animals. In addition to disasters, horse theft also is giving horse owners cause to look for guaranteed methods of identifying their horses. Microchip identification is an excellent tool for improving horse traceability in disease outbreak scenarios and allows for the rapid and efficient management of investigations to minimize spread of contagious diseases in horses. Diseases such as equine herpesviral myeloencephalopathy, strangles, influenza, salmonellosis, and others can spread rapidly, and the ability to quickly identify animals aids veterinarians, farm managers, and other animal health professionals in developing the most appropriate action plan to protect them.

Microchip implantation is safe, simple, and inexpensive and usually will last a horse’s entire life. The cost is generally about $50 to $75 and the chips currently being manufactured are functioning for 25 years or longer. The tiny nonmigratory chip is the size of a grain of rice and takes only seconds to implant with a small syringe by a veterinarian or other trained person. The chip is implanted halfway between the horse’s poll and withers, just below the mane in the nuchal ligament on the horse’s near (left) side. The injection site is cleaned and disinfected prior to injection and sometimes shaved, ensuring little to no occurrence of an adverse reaction.

The microchip is encapsulated in glass and is etched with a unique one-of-a-kind number. The accredited veterinarian will use the unique microchip number to record on official health papers and medical records. It is up to the owner to have that unique code maintained in personal medical records or registered with a commercially available and searchable database. A handheld scanner is used to read the microchip through the skin of the animal. The scanner reads the number on the chip through radio frequency identification technology. Although there are several different companies manufacturing these microchips, most scanners are now considered universal as they are engineered to read a common frequency.

In the 1990s, Louisiana became the first state to require mandatory unique identification for all horses and annual Coggins testing. Microchips are a unique identifier superior to lip tattoos or brands since brands are not unique per horse and both tattoos and brands can be altered and/or difficult to read. Many breed organizations are now requiring microchipping for registration.

Microchipping became especially important in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustave, Ike, and Isaac in Louisiana, when many horses were separated from their owners and needed to be identified in order to be reunited. Veterinarians working with affected horses in the recent aftermath and recovery efforts in Texas and Florida from hurricanes Harvey and Irma are finding microchipping invaluable with the massive ongoing sheltering operations. There is really no down-side and no reason that a horse should not have microchip identification.

CONTACT—Rebecca S. McConnico, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM (LA), professor of agricultural sciences—Rmcconn@latech.edu—318/257-2418—Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, Louisiana


This is an excerpt from Equine Disease Quarterly, funded by underwriters at Lloyd’s, London.

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Equine Disease Quarterly

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