Although microchips are widely used for identifying horses throughout Europe, there is still some resistance to their use, with questions being raised about stress during implantation, inflammation at the site of implantation, and reliability of detection.
In response to this criticism, microchips that are even smaller have been developed. They may be less stressful to implant, but do they work as well? Recent work has looked at whether such chips are reliable and if their implantation causes signs of stress.
The study, carried out at the Brandenburg State Stud at Neustadt (Dosse), Germany, was reported by Manuela Wulf and others in a recent edition of the Veterinary Record. Forty adult mares were implanted, on the left side of the neck, with a reduced-size microchip (10.9×1.6 mm). (Conventional microchips are 11.4×2.2 mm). Three different scanners were used to detect the microchips immediately, and on three further occasions up to 28 weeks after implantation.
The researchers found that scanners differed in their ability to read the microchips, although all scanners detected all chips on every occasion when scanned from the side of implantation. One scanner read all microchips successfully from both sides of the neck on four occasions up to 28 weeks after implantation. Two other scanners detected all of the chips from the side of implantation, but were less successful reading from the “wrong” side of the neck.
Did the horses find the implantation procedure stressful? The researchers monitored heart rate, heart rate variability and saliva cortisol levels during the implantation process in twelve of the mares. They also recorded the same information while pressing at the implantation site with a cannula without penetrating the skin. So each mare acted as its own control. They found a slight increase in heart parameters in both chip implantation and controls, but no change in cortisol levels.
The report's authors conclude that reduced-size microchips are highly reliable for identification of horses. “Compared with conventional microchips, the reduction in size did not impair readability. Microchip implantation is no pronounced stressor for horses.”
For more details see:
Reduced-size microchips for identification of horses: response to implantation and readability during a six-month period.
Wulf M, Aurich C, von Lewinski M, Möstl E, Aurich JE.
Vet Rec. 2013 Nov 9;173(18):451.