Your pet rabbit hippity-hopping around the backyard is an idyllic scene. But what if your fluffy friend suddenly vanishes under the fence or squeezes out a hole you didn’t notice? Rabbits are curious explorers and masters of escape that can give Houdini a run for his money. Don’t lose hope if your bunny goes rogue! Microchipping offers permanent pet identification to boost the odds of finding them if they decide to tour the town solo. This handy technology is a simple, affordable way to safeguard your long-eared companion. Read on to learn all about microchipping rabbits, from how it works to when it’s done. You’ll hop to it once you know the benefits!
What is a microchip?
A microchip is a small electronic device, about the size of a grain of rice, that is implanted under the skin of an animal and contains a unique identification number. Microchipping pets has become a popular way to identify lost or stolen animals. If the animal is found, the microchip can be scanned by a vet or shelter to reveal the identification number, which can then be used to find the owner's contact information in a microchip registry database.
Microchips are made of a biocompatible material that does not cause any harm when implanted. The actual microchip is encased in a type of glass that can be safely implanted in the body. Microchips do not contain any batteries or moving parts – they are activated when scanned by a microchip reader that sends out electromagnetic waves. The microchip converts the electromagnetic waves into electrical energy that powers the microchip just long enough to transmit the ID number back to the reader.
The microchip is carefully inserted into the animal via a hypodermic needle by a veterinarian or trained professional. It is implanted under the loose skin between the shoulder blades where there is less chance of migration. The process only takes a few seconds and most pets tolerate it very well with minimal discomfort. The area may be sore for a day or two but there are no ongoing side effects.
Microchipping provides permanent pet identification that can't fall off or be removed like ID tags and collars. As long as the microchip remains implanted, the animal can be identified when scanned. However, it's important to register the microchip ID with current contact information in a database to allow for pet recovery when a lost animal is found.
What to do with the microchip identification number?
Once your pet rabbit has been implanted with a microchip, you will be provided with the unique identification number encoded in the chip. This microchip ID number is useless, however, unless it is registered along with your contact details in a microchip registry database. There are several national databases that vets, shelters, and animal control can access when scanning a found pet to get the owner's information associated with that microchip.
The most widely used microchip registries in the US are the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and HomeAgain. Your vet may provide registration in one of these databases at the time of implantation. Or you can choose to register your pet's microchip yourself online with the company who manufactured the microchip. There is usually an initial registration fee and minimal annual renewal fee.
Once registered, contact your microchip registry anytime your address or phone numbers change to keep your details current. Accurate owner contact info is key to reuniting with your lost rabbit if they turn up at a shelter.
You should also keep a note of the microchip number along with the registry it's registered with. If your rabbit goes missing, you'll need to provide the microchip ID when contacting vets, shelters and filing lost pet reports so they can match your rabbit if found and scanned.
Is the microchip procedure safe?
The microchipping procedure is very quick, simple and relatively painless for rabbits. It causes minimal distress when carried out by an experienced vet or technician. The microchip is administered via injection using a specialized preloaded syringe so the chip is deposited smoothly under the skin.
Rabbits have very thick fur so the skin can't easily be seen to implant the chip. So your vet may need to shave a small patch on the back of the neck to allow smooth insertion of the needle and prevent the fur from interfering with the injection.
The needle used is thicker than those used for injections but it is beveled and lubricated so it can pierce the skin smoothly. The rabbit will feel the needle stick but once the chip is injected, only the syringe is removed, the chip stays implanted.
There may be minor bleeding or swelling initially at the injection site but this quickly resolves. Your rabbit may seem somewhat subdued for a few hours after microchipping but should return to normal by the next day. It's a good idea to monitor them for signs of infection but this is very rare.
Serious complications like improper microchip migration or immune reactions are extremely uncommon in rabbits. Overall, microchips are very well tolerated long-term. As long as your vet is experienced and uses proper technique, the microchipping procedure is very low risk for rabbits.
How much do microchips cost?
The costs associated with microchipping a rabbit include:
Initial microchip cost: $25-$50
Veterinarian implantation fee: $25-$75
Registration in microchip database: $15-$30 initial fee
Annual renewal subscription: $15-$20 per year
So you can expect to spend $80-$180 to get your rabbit microchipped and registered. Some low-cost clinics or shelters may offer microchipping events for $40-$60 total. Larger microchips of 15mm length cost slightly more.
You can minimize costs by choosing the lowest priced ISO-compliant microchip and having your vet implant it instead of using the vet's own higher-priced chips. HomeAgain and 24PetWatch both offer low-price microchips suitable for rabbits.
Registering the microchip in your name also incurs fees. But you can choose a database like Found Animals which offers free registration. Their microchips also come preloaded in syringes to lower vet implantation costs.
While microchipping requires an upfront investment, it greatly improves the chance of getting a lost rabbit back. When you consider potentially losing a beloved pet, the cost seems very worthwhile.
When should you microchip your rabbit?
The ideal time to microchip a rabbit is at around 4 months old. By this age, rabbits are more physically mature and better able to handle the quick microchip injection procedure.
Vets recommend waiting until 12 weeks/3 months at a minimum before microchipping. The implant site is smaller on a baby rabbit and their rapid growth phase could cause migration issues with an early chip. It's best to wait until your bunny is bigger to minimize any discomfort or complications.
Many rabbit owners choose to microchip when their rabbit is spayed or neutered since they are already under anesthesia. This eliminates any stress about being handled while conscious for the injection.
However, you can microchip an older rabbit at any time. As long as they are healthy, there is no upper age limit for safe implantation. Even elderly or disabled rabbits benefit from being identifiable if lost. Just ask your vet to use the smallest microchip size appropriate for rabbits.
If adopting an adult rabbit, try to have them microchipped as soon as possible after bringing them home. An unknown environment may initially spook them and increase chances of an escape you'll want to be prepared for.
4 reasons to microchip your rabbit
1. Your rabbit has an outdoor run
Letting your rabbit enjoy time in a secure outdoor run is great for their mental and physical health. But even well-designed enclosures can occasionally be breached by a determined rabbit, so an escape is still possible. A microchip provides an extra layer of protection in case your bun manages to sneak out of their run. If they wander off or are picked up by someone, the permanent ID under their skin increases the chance they make it back home to you.
2. You take your rabbit for walks
Rabbits can be trained to walk on a harness and leash for supervised outdoor time, but unexpected things can still happen on walks. Even the most obedient bunny might get spooked and wiggle out of their gear. And if you accidentally leave a gate ajar, an adventurous rabbit may seize the chance to explore further. With a microchip, you don't have to worry so much about your walker getting loose or left behind.
3. Your rabbit tries to escape
Some rabbits are true escape artists, relentlessly investigating any perceived weakness in their housing. They will dig, chew, claw, and squeeze through the smallest gaps. If you have a known flight risk, a microchip provides backup reassurance. Should they outsmart you and make a break for it, the chip increases the likelihood of them being identified and returned safely.
4. For mental well being
Simply knowing your rabbit is microchipped can provide peace of mind that eases stress if they happen to escape. You'll worry less about permanent loss and instead focus energy on putting up flyers, contacting shelters, and searching the neighborhood. You can hold onto hope that thanks to the microchip someone will scan them and contact you for reunification. Reduced anxiety helps you and your mischievous bun recover together faster.
What to do if your rabbit is lost outside
If your rabbit escapes or becomes lost, having them microchipped improves the chance they will be returned to you. But you'll also need to take active steps to increase their chances of being found safe. Here are some tips:
Immediately start searching the area near your home. Look under bushes, cars, in crawlspaces, and anywhere a rabbit may hide when scared.
Bring their favorite treats, toys, and litter box outside. Familiar items and smells may draw them back.
Knock on neighbors' doors and ask them to check garages, sheds, and gardens where your bunny could be taking shelter.
Post "Lost Rabbit" flyers and notices on neighborhood pages Nextdoor and Facebook. Include a clear photo of your rabbit with your contact info.
Contact local vets, shelters, pet stores, and wildlife centers daily to report your lost rabbit in case someone brings them in.
File lost pet reports with microchip registries so they know to contact you if your rabbit is scanned.
Visit shelters in person if possible and ask to view stray rabbits in case yours was picked up but not yet scanned.
Return to search at dawn and dusk when rabbits are most active. Shine a flashlight to reflect their eye shine.
Leave familiar items, litter, food and water in the area to encourage them to return.
Don't give up! Rabbits can survive for weeks outdoors. Sightings or captures often occur after extensive searching. Persistence pays off.
Microchipping means someone who finds your lost rabbit can identify them and reunite you instead of adopting them out. But you'll still need to put in work to actively search and spread the word. With smart preparation and effort, even escape-prone rabbits often make it back home.