In this study, readability of reduced-size microchips in horses and the response to implantation were analysed. It was hypothesised that small microchips can be implanted stress-free but are less readable than larger microchips. Adult mares (n=40) were implanted with a reduced-size microchip (10.9×1.6 mm) at the left side of the neck (size of conventional microchips 11.4×2.2 mm). Microchips were identified with three different scanners (A, B, C) immediately, and at 6, 12 and 28 weeks after implantation. Twelve out of the 40 mares were submitted to microchip implantation and control treatments and cortisol, heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV) were determined. From the chip-bearing side of the neck, microchips were identified with all scanners in all horses at all times. From the contralateral side, correct readings were always 100 per cent with scanner C and with scanners A and B ranged between 60 and 100 per cent. Heart rate and HRV variable sd of beat-to-beat interval increased slightly (P<0.01) at microchip implantation and control treatment, but cortisol concentration did not increase. In conclusion, 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.
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