Mini-Microchips for Horses Get Thumbs Up

Mini-Microchips for Horses Get Thumbs Up

The mini-microchip works "very well” and has benefits for the horse, Aurich said.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

The techie trend toward tinier-than-tiny micro-anything has now hit the world of equine identification. Horses necessitating microchip identification—a requirement in many countries, including the entire European Union—can now receive a “mini-microchip” implant.

Roughly 70% the size of the standard microchip, the mini-microchip “obviously works very well” and has clear benefits for the horse, explained Christine Aurich, DVM, PhD, Head of the Graf Lehndorff Institute for Equine Science in Neustadt, Germany.

“It’s certainly better to insert a smaller needle than the one that was used for the ‘old’ chip,” Aurich said. “Therefore, the mini-chip should substitute the old transponder from now on.”

The welfare benefits are even greater for small animals, in particular dogs and cats, she added.

Aurich and colleagues tested the mini-chip in 40 adult mares at the Brandenburg State Stud in Neustadt. They evaluated the horses’ response to the implant as well as its readability, and they compared their results to their previous studies on standard microchip placement and readability.

The microchips were immediately readable and still readable up to 24 weeks later (at the end of the testing period) with 100% accuracy, regardless of the scanner used, when scanned on the implantation side of the neck, Aurich said. High-quality scanners still read the chip accurately on the opposite side of the neck, although lower-quality scanners used on the opposing side sometimes made errors. However, Aurich said, this is also true with standard-sized microchips.

Placing the mini-microchip did not elicit any immediate pain responses in the mares, she said, and stress parameters showed almost no changes compared to resting. In fact, she said, the mares' salivary cortisol levels were lower than for the placement of standard-sized microchips (which is already very low) and even lower at the time of implantation than it is for common events such as riding, she added. Aurich said the horses' heart rate and heart rate variability changes were so “transient and extremely small” that they could hardly be considered significant. And none of the horses exhibited any swelling or irritation at the implant site.

Another advantage, Aurich said, is that this tiny mini-chip doesn't appear to “migrate.” Microchips tend to move around in the muscle tissue over time, sometimes going to different places on the body or deeper inside the body, making them harder to find with the scanner. However, Aurich's study suggests these mini-chips are staying in place.

Pricing for the new chips, at least through some companies, will remain the same as for the old chip, said Jürgen Bartz, Dr MedVet, product manager at Virbac Tierarzneimittel GmbH, in Bad Oldesloe, Germany.

The study, "Reduced-size microchips for identification of horses: response to implantation and readability during a six-month period," was published in The Veterinary Record

About the Author

Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA

Christa Lesté-Lasserre is a freelance writer based in France. A native of Dallas, Texas, Lesté-Lasserre grew up riding Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, and Shetland Ponies. She holds a master’s degree in English, specializing in creative writing, from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and earned a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing with a minor in sciences from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She currently keeps her two Trakehners at home near Paris. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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