The act of insertion of a microchip into a cat carries a risk. I’ve noticed two stories on the Internet that indicate to me that the insertion of a microchip into a cat, a routine procedure, can carry a risk of damage to the cat’s spinal cord.
I am sure that this particular risk is small but nonetheless it appears to be real. There are two reasons why there is a risk.
The first reason is the fact that inserting a microchip into a cat is a routine procedure. This results in the fact that technicians working at a veterinary clinic are sometimes, perhaps commonly, employed to carry out this simple and straightforward procedure. Are they always well trained and competent? Do routine procedures sometimes result in a lack of adequate care due to complacency?
The second reason is the fact that the microchip is inserted below the skin at the back of the neck (nape of the neck) between the shoulder blades on the dorsal mid-line (the middle of the cat’s back). Interestingly, it may be the case that in continental Europe veterinarians implant the chip on the left side of the neck.
This brings me to the observation that inserting the microchip on the left side of the neck is safer than inserting it on the mid-line between the shoulder blades.
We know that below the skin, along the mid-line of the cat, there lies the spinal cord surrounded by vertebrae. If the technician has received poor training, or is uncertain, he or she could place the hypodermic needle that carries the microchip against the cat’s spine below the skin.
If this happens, the microchip could then be injected between vertebrae and against the spinal cord or into the spinal cord.
In the picture above this article you will see that the American veterinarian has pulled up a lot of loose skin so that he is sure that when he makes the injection the needle is distanced from the spinal cord.
I believe that the continental procedure (if this is indeed the procedure) is safer because it avoids the possibility of the needle going anywhere near the cat’s spine.
I mentioned two cases which motivated me to write this article. In one case a cat in England went in for a routine micro-chipping that was without charge and the person who did the micro-chipping appears to have been inexperienced and we are told that she struggled to do it correctly and ultimately rammed the needle very hard into the cat and injected the chip between the first and second vertebra in the neck, which paralysed her.
The cat’s owner was compensated with a £3000 payment which represented the cost of the surgery to repair the damage. The cat may make a full recovery but at the time of writing this she is still partially paralyzed, as I understand the story.
Now turning to America, there is a story of a cat that was born in a rescue center who went in at 12 weeks old for a routine microchip procedure. At the moment that the microchip was inserted, the cat’s body went into a spasm. This appears to have injured her spine which left the kitten paralyzed.
I do not know, in this instance, whether the needle touched the spine but that would seem to be the case. The story does not make this clear. However, I have never read about a case where an injection into the skin between the shoulder blades has caused the cat to go into spasm. Accordingly, it would seem likely that the needle accidentally contacted the spine.
I’m not saying that micro-chipping is dangerous or hazardous to cats. There are many benefits. However, if I were taking my cat to a veterinarian for microchipping I would quietly and politely introduce the subject of the risk of damage to the spine referred to in this article. This would put the veterinarian or his assistant on notice resulting in a guarantee that care would be taken.
There is a further risk from micro-chipping. There have been reports about tumors developing around or close to the site of the implanted microchip. After all, we are injecting a rice-sized piece of electronic kit into a cat. Despite the known benefits, the procedure is unnatural and therefore it is unsurprising that there may be a health risk. You can read about this particular aspect of micro-chipping on the following page: micro-chipping pets including cats.
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My thanks to Ruth aka Kattaddorra for finding this story. The British story.