Placing microchips in camelids is a really useful husbandry skill to learn. As an owner you can place microchips yourself. However, if you are not confident you can always ask your vet to do this for you or show you how!
Microchips are used as a means of electronically identifying animals with a unique identifier. This identifying number is associated with the owner of the animal when submitted to a central database or registry. A microchip number is required in order to register alpacas on the Pedigree Registry of the British Alpaca Society. Consistent placement of microchips in the same location makes it easier to check identity of any animals when required.
Where should you place a microchip?
When placing microchips in camelids, they should be placed under the skin overlying the outside of the cartilage of the left ear. This location is easily accessible, and the skin at this site can be easily tented up to allow for subcutaneous placement of the microchip introducing needle. It is also less likely that a microchip placed here will migrate elsewhere in the body.
It is hard to find a site for subcutaneous placement anywhere over the neck because the skin is so tightly adhered to the underlying tissues. There are some exceptions to this but these are locations that are not recommended for you to place microchips. The first is at the very base of the ear. However, there are blood vessels here that will bleed extensively if a large needle is placed into them. Secondly, there is some skin that can be pulled up just in front of the shoulder, but this site is very often used for injection of medicines and should be avoided for this reason.
It is not advisable to inject microchips into the neck muscle or nuchal ligament of camelids. This is because there is so little muscle into which you can inject and there are many bony and vital structures that can potentially be damaged. The nuchal ligament essentially holds the neck up. When camelids are weakened from illness this is the structure that is responsible for pulling the neck back. If it is damaged, or infection occurs here, it could make it difficult for your alpaca or llama to hold its head up!
Step by step approach to placing microchips:
- 1. Ensure that the animal that you’re microchipping hasn’t already been microchipped using your microchip reader. Check around both ears, down the neck to the shoulders and also around the base of the tail.
- 2. Check that the new microchip is functional and that the number coming up on the microchip reader matches the paperwork and stickers supplied with the chip.
- 3. Ensure that the alpaca is being secured properly in order to stabilise the head.
- 4. Check the location for microchip placement on the lower part of the left ear. Use an alcohol swab to clean the area. This also soaks down the hair making it easier to visualise the site on the skin for injection of the microchip introducer needle.
- 5. Tent up the skin with the finger and thumb on your non-dominant hand. Insert the needle fully along the tented up skin between finger and thumb so that the bevel is fully inserted.Make sure that the needle isn’t inadvertently injected back out through the skin!
- 6. Inject the microchip under the skin. After withdrawing the needle, ensure that the microchip isn’t sticking back out through the needle hole. Check with a microchip reader that the chip is in place and working.
- 7. If there is any bleeding, just use a clean swab to apply pressure for a moment and then wipe it away.