The Webster’s definition of a commodity is: “A reasonably interchangeable good or material, bought and sold freely as an article of commerce….” This definition indicates that commodities are shopped items open for trade at the best market driven price. While in the strictest financial terms this refers to agricultural goods and natural resources, commodity items in every day life can be expanded to include every day items like milk, eggs and bread.
In the early 2000’s a phenomenon veterinary industry experts dubbed “commodity services” began to rear its head with the advent of high volume discount spay/neuter and vaccine clinics. These clinics also eventually expanded into providing low cost dental cleanings. Full service animal clinics really did not pay them much attention at first never thinking that such important medical and surgical services could become shopped items where pet owners would go for the most low balled price. However, after really gaining momentum following the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing Great Recession, with so many desperate to save money wherever they could, commodity services in veterinary medicine became a real thing to contend with.
The tough part is that the low cost/high volume places did a very good job of marketing their low balled services as equivalent to what a full service veterinary hospital/clinic would offer. And as veterinarians who believed that good medicine and surgery would always trump gimmicky marketing ploys that disguised second rate, often downright scary practices that saved cost through sacrificing quality, we did a very poor job of making pet owners understand that you get was you pay for. We assumed that pet owners would sniff these places out and quickly realize that they were being sold a discounted turd masquerading as a diamond. Boy were we wrong!
Thus, the dog and cat spay has fallen into the category of a commodity service, one that some pet owners are willing to opt for the lowest bidder. Early in my career I never would have thought anything like this could possibly occur, and I certainly did not ever fathom that I would one day be writing an article like this. So let us discuss what a spay is and what it entails so that you may make a well informed decision as to whether you wish to trust your beloved pet being spayed by the lowest priced bargain basement clinic out there.
A dog or cat spay is a procedure technically called an ovarohysterectomy, whereby an incision is made into the abdomen and the female reproductive tract is isolated and surgically removed. This process requires the isolation and tying off of major abdominal arteries to prevent internal bleeding. Post-operatively, the female patient’s life literally depends on the integrity and strength of the ligatures used to tie off both ovarian and uterine arteries. Thus, the attention and skill of the veterinary surgeon and the quality of suture material is very important.
Speaking of surgical skill and choice of top brand suture materials, following a spay the only things keeping the internal organs inside the abdomen where they belong is the quality of the layers of surgical closure. Like the tying off of major blood vessels, the quality and integrity of the closure is dependent on the skill of the veterinary surgeon and the choice of quality suture materials.
Prior to making our approach to the sterile abdomen, the surgical site should be aseptically prepped by clipping away all hair and performing a proper surgical scrub of the region surrounding the approach. The veterinary surgeon performing the spay should be wearing a surgical cap and mask, have his/her hands surgically scrubbed, and be outfitted in a sterile surgical gown and wearing sterile surgical gloves. The surgical site should then be isolated with sterile surgical drapes to maintain a sterile surgical field in which to work. Not following these protocols can predispose the patient to serious post-operative infection.
Finally, one of the most potentially risky aspects of any surgical procedure is the anesthesia. Proper anesthetic protocols, state of the art monitoring equipment, and effective and safe pre and post operative pain medication are all essential components to smooth and safe anesthesia and patient comfort Please see these respective articles on Cat Anesthesia and Dog Anesthesia for more integral aspects of safe administration of anesthesia.
Clearly, there are many moving parts to the canine and feline spay procedure, thus, it should never be referred to as “just a spay.” Always bear in mind that a spay is a major abdominal surgery and should be treated as such.
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a globally recognized expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.