Pets can tend to escape their owners’ possession, and become lost while on walks even when fences, gates, doors, and other boundaries are set in place to prevent them. There are an increasing number of pet owners are looking for new solutions to help prevent the loss of a pet, or in the event of a loss, find and retrieve their furry loved ones. With the advent of GPS and readable microchips, companies have been developed microchipping and GPS installation into pet collars and leashes. There are benefits to both of these types of technologies, and here are just a few things you should know if you are a pet owner and are looking for similar technology.
GPS vs. Microchipping
Contrary to what many pet owners may think, there is a significant difference between microchips and GPS. Microchips are generally implanted beneath the skin of a dog or cat, typically in the shoulder area or back of the neck. The microchip is not powered on at all times (as a GPS would be), but only when a microchip scanner is passed over the animal. Microchips do not contain strong internal batteries, and as a result, are not capable of being registered through a global positioning satellite. GPS collars, on the other hand, are larger, and worn on the pet’s collar. GPS collars do have a power source or interchangeable batteries, and can be tracked from a long distance via a global positioning satellite.
Pros and Cons
The single largest benefit of a GPS collar is being able to track your pet nearly anywhere. Many companies are now offering services or apps that enable you to monitor your pet with a mobile device. This is usually done through SMS or e-mails that notify you when your pet leaves a certain zone that you have specified when registering the system. Since the GPS device is attached externally, you do not have to worry about possible reactions or discomfort your pet could face by having a microchip implanted. However, this also means that the device can be removed by someone else, falls off, or shuts down due to the loss of battery power, rendering the device useless. The majority of models are often too big to fit correctly around a small dog or cat’s neck as well. As such, GPS collars are usually best for medium to large-sized pets.
Implanting a microchip in your pet’s shoulder or neck enables permanent identification for that pet. Worried owners can relax knowing that the chip cannot be removed or become detached by accident. They are also inexpensive, do not require monthly subscriptions, and only require a onetime charge for the procedure and the pet’s ID number registration. The process only takes a short while and is usually done through a small injection that would be no different than the pet receiving a vaccination shot. Owners will also not have to stay on top of additional battery power since energy is drawn from the chip only when being scanned. Nevertheless, there are some downfalls of microchips that pet owners may not be aware of.
While microchipping is becoming more and more popular, many shelters do not have universal scanners and may not be able to identify a pet if it has a chip that they hardware cannot read. In rare cases pets have experienced inflammation when microchips have been injected and installed under their skin.
So which option is the right one for you? If you are on a tight budget, microchipping might be the best option. The implant would free you of expenses for batteries, subscriptions, and expensive hardware. On the other hand if you do have the funds, a GPS collar may be a good choice as long as you have a medium to large-sized pet.
A good choice for a color GPS device may be the more popular RoamEO Pet Monitoring System. It comes with a GPS enabled receiver and collar, can track up to two pets simultaneously, and rechargeable batteries with the charger is included. The RoamEO pet GPS system is priced at $179. Tagg by PetTracker is a more advanced option at the same price, but after 12 months charges a monthly fee of $7.95 for their app.
Microchipping is a lot cheaper, often costing only $30 - $50 compared to hundreds in the long term for GPS tracking devices. You can get a microchip implanted in your pet generally at most shelters, and they are also sometimes offered at vaccination clinics. Interested pet owners should contact their local shelter for more information. A proper visit to the vet can determine if your pet can be microchipped, and these consultations should be made before any sort of minor surgery or injection happens.
Angie Picardo is a staff writer for NerdWallet. Her mission is to help pet owners stay financially savvy and save money with NerdWallet’s best credit cards.