How to Scan RFID Implants

Written by richard barker, dvm
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How to Scan RFID Implants
Scanner radio waves provide microchip power. (implantable rfid tag image by Albert Lozano from

Radio frequency identification (RFID) microchip implants allow the return of lost pets to their owners. Trained personnel inject a microchip under the animal's skin. RFID scanners can detect this microchip and indicate its identification code. This code references the pet owner in a database, and provides contact information. Implantable RFID microchips are also available for humans as of 2010, and can carry important information such as medical records.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Obtain the appropriate RFID scanner. If you're scanning a known type of RFID implant, contact the microchip's manufacturer to identify the appropriate scanner. If you're scanning a microchip from an unknown manufacturer, or simply checking for the presence of a microchip, use a scanner that detects most or all of the locally available microchips. In some cases, you may need to use two scanners to scan for all available microchips.

  2. 2

    Switch the scanner's power on, and hold the transmitting end of the scanner --- which is usually clearly marked --- over the suspected implant area. The scanner's manufacturer should specify the distance at which it can detect a microchip; always hold the transmitting end of the scanner within this distance.

  3. 3

    Press the transmitter button repeatedly to emit a radio signal while moving the transmitting end of the scanner in a grid pattern over the suspected implant area. The scanner will activate the microchip, and cause it to send the pet's identification number to the scanner. Most scanners display this number as a digital readout.

Tips and warnings

  • Scanners that detect a microchip from another manufacturer may indicate the presence of a microchip without displaying the identification number. If this happens, contact the scanner manufacturer for instructions on how to get the identification number.
  • Some animals may have two different microchips, often from two different manufacturers.
  • Scanners not designed for a particular microchip may not detect that microchip at all, resulting in a false negative.

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