There’s a new microchip out there and it’s meant to make your dog smarter, if only because his subcutaneous tissues carry extra information about his health…in a rice-sized grain of silicone-slicked metal.

Schering Plough, one of our industry’s biggest pharmaceutical companies, is the bearer of this new technology. They’ve just bought the Home Again brand of microchip…and they’ve made a few changes, which they announced at yesterday’s lunchtime pizza party in our office:

1-The Home Again microchip reader can now read Avid chips (Halellujah! No more trips to the nearby Avid-reading hospital).

2-The microchip number would now be linked to a pet’s basic health information such as vaccine history and medication requirements—maintained on Shering-Plough’s permanent database via your vet’s database. Should your pet get lost, this info is made immediately available to a shelter or hospital in possession of a reader and handy telephone.

3-The company also takes a more active role in helping you find your pet by faxing area shelters, rescues and hospitals your pet’s picture and basic information. Its website also helps you make fliers to aid in your pet’s recovery.

It all sounds real nice, doesn’t it? And I have no doubt that some owners might like to take advantage of this program, priced at an extra fifteen bucks a year. But our hospital won’t be one of those joining the club of Home Again retailers offering this new service.

Although we like Home Again for its anti-migration technology (the chip supposedly stays put well compared to its Avid counterpart) and we’re gratified to have a new dual reader in our hospital, we have a bit of an issue with how Shering-Plough would link its database to ours.

Not only would they have access to all our microchipped pets’ information, they’d also—effectively—have access to all our patients’ records. Though they say they don’t use this info, what’s to stop them sending us a little note in two months saying they’ll be accessing this info for the good of all pets—and which they’ll ultimately sell to line their pockets or to use for their own research and development?

Data mining is an excellent source of income in online commerce. And I wouldn’t want my clients’ information for sale in any market without their express consent.

Apparently, the folks at Shering-Plough couldn’t understand this. When we questioned them at length about this [obvious] ploy to take over our clients’ information (and charge them for it, to boot!) they treated us like paranoid conspiracy theorists.

Maybe we are a little bit more nervous than most. Perhaps we’ll end up being the lone hold-out in the inexorable drive towards a global dearth of privacy in veterinary medicine. But I don’t care. My patients’ private info, much as I write about them here, is as sacred as that of any human patient—to me, at least.