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Microchipping your ferret
With the best will in the world any animal can stray, no matter how careful owners are there is always the risk that an animal can become lost. When a stray ferret is found it is likely to be scanned by the rescue organisation or vet that it is handed to. If there is a microchip found then the ferret can be reunited with you very quickly indeed, minimising stress for the ferret and you!
Microchip numbers cannot be altered meaning that should there be any question regarding ownership then you have a simple method of proving this. In addition should you wish to travel abroad your pet requires a pet passport, and microchipping is a required element of qualifying for this document.
Microchipping is a way of permanently identifying your ferret. A small capsule approximately the size of a grain of rice, is implanted using a needle just under the ferret's skin, in between their shoulder blades. Each microchip has a unique (normally 15 digit) number that identifies your ferret. This number is recorded against your address and contact details on one of the microchip databases and stays with the animal for life. There are now two sizes of chip available for ferrets. The standard ST02 (12mm x 2.12mm) and ST04 mini chip (8.5mm x 1.4mm).
After your ferret is microchipped, the details will be registered with a Lost and Found Pet Service. If the worst happens and your ferret goes missing, it is very likely that they will be picked up by the Animal Warden service, or by a vet or one of the Rescue organisations. These agencies are equipped with a special scanner which can read the lost pets unique microchip number and this will enable them to find your details through the PetLog database and contact you.
Many animals can be chipped from 8 weeks of age but being so small it's practice to wait until kits are 16 weeks old before chipping, though at STARescue we prefer waiting until kits are fully grown, i.e, have reached 6-8 months of age.
Microchipping uses a scalpel sharp needle to break the skin for implantation. Most animals, when distracted, will not show sign of noticing the needle being inserted. It is a very quick procedure and often owners are positively surprised at how little their animal noticed the procedure being carried out!
Sometimes a microchipper - commonly a vet - who is not confident with ferrets will assume that ferrets will be difficult to microchip and require sedation - this is very far from the truth!
Under normal circumstances sedation is not needed to microchip any animal. A competant microchipper will offer some form of distraction, such as ferretone, to keep the ferret focused on something else and then with your help, or the help of another person, will be able to carry out the procedure. As long as you are relaxed and don't attempt to pin down the animal they will, under normal circumstances, be able to be microchipped with a minimum of stress and fuss and no sedation.
The microchipper should check with you that the animal doesn't have any underlying illness that could make them liable to bleed. If in any doubt about this then you should always contact your vet for advice or request your vet carry out the procedure. Normally there is little evidence of bleeding however the reactions of individual animals can differ and a small amount of bleeding is not harmful or an indication of something going wrong. Should the bleeding continue you should obviously seek the advice of a vet. A small scab may form over the implantation site but this is often not visible.
It is possible for a microchip to move, however this is not as common as some people believe. Most chips have slightly ridged surfaces to aid bonding with the animals tissues. If you are concerned that the chip may have moved or fallen out (very unlikely!) then you should be able to ask the microchipper to scan him and check where it is. Many vets and other rescue organisations have scanners and most will be willing to check the chip for free.
Microchipping can be carried out by a vet but it can also be done on pet animals by a qualified practitioner who will have received training in order to be able to work as a companion animal microchipper. Every microchipper will charge based on their own circumstances. Prices may vary wildly even in the same area, from £7.50 to £30. Discounts may be available if you do all your pets in one go.
Check with your local ferret rescue, animal rescue (including the RSPCA) to see if they have someone who can microchip, as the prices charged by rescue volunteers tends to be cheaper and the monies raised from chipping go to the rescue.
Vets tend to be dearer due to their overheads. Some Pet stores such as Pets@Home also offer microchipping but check with them before taking your ferret(s) along that they are happy to do ferrets.
There are lots of private microchippers around the UK so check your yellow pages to find ones local to you, some are also listed at PaddyMark.
If you are in any doubt about the practitioners qualification then ask to see their training certificate, they should be able and happy to show you this. Most microchippers will also be in posession of professional liability insurance.