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Price Shopping For A Spay Or Neuter Procedure? Read This First!

The Poor Technique of Low Cost Spay-Neuter Clinic On Display

Earlier this week I had a neuter that cancelled after the owner had already showed up to drop off her dog for the procedure.  The admitting technician recognized immediately at check in that the front desk staff member who had scheduled the procedure made a mistake in not checking and ensuring that the owner received a printed, itemized treatment plan that outlines exactly what we do and what the total cost of the procedure is.  It is our policy to not not engage in any service without at full providing full disclosure of cost and having the owner sign off on approval.

As such, the admitting technician provided the neuter treatment plan prior to admission and the owner was rather surprised and called her husband prior to leaving their dog.  They had a completely different price in mind based on information they had gotten from friends that had in the past used a local high volume, low cost spay/neuter clinic.  They decided to cancel the procedure and discuss whether they would have the procedure done with us and reschedule at a later time or consider the low cost clinic.

We take full responsibility for the breach in protocol and subsequent sticker shock that ensued, since the appointment should not have even gotten this far without the owners having known full well what the cost would be and specifically why the cost was more than they may see at another clinic.  We never disparage other clinics but rather provide a full explanation of our treatment plan simply ask the owner that when deciding to choose a clinic for a procedure, understand that the difference in cost often reflects our gold standard surgical program so that they can compare apples to apples.

What we make no apologies for is what we charge for spay and neuter.  As a clinic that is accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), we conduct our surgical program in a veterinary university fashion, using the best and latest anesthesia monitoring equipment, following the most up to date anesthesia protocols, and performing the surgery with a fully scrubbed and gowned veterinarian in a cap and mask, with the same dedicated veterinary nurse from admission through surgical prep, recovery, and discharge.  This last aspect minimizes inconsistencies in post-operative pain management treatment and post-operative discharge instructions.  Every surgical patient also gets am IV catheter for administration of intraoperative fluids to maintain electrolyte balance, hydration, and blood pressure (and to administer life saving emergency drugs if a patient were to crash) and each patient receives an endotracheal tube through which the gas anesthesia is administered (which also protects the airway and enables manual ventilation in the event that a patient stops breathing).

Common corners that high volume, low cost spay-neuter clinics cut to reduce cost include the following:

  • Veterinarian does not scrub or gown for surgery, just throws on sterile gloves.  You can see in the picture above, the low cost veterinarian is not even wearing a cap and mask and has an unacceptably small sterile drape field.
  • Surgical instrument packs are used for multiple patients (as opposed to a fresh sterile pack for each patient).
  • No dedicated nurse, as the patients tend to be passed along in assembly line fasion.
  • Gas anesthesia is administered via mask not endotracheal tube so there is no airway protection in the event of airway closure or if the patient vomits while under anesthesia (and provides a much less effective ability manually ventilate the patient if breathing stops).
  • Very rudimentary and cheap anesthesia monitoring equipment or no anesthesia monitoring equipment at all (as opposed to our patients that have oxygen saturation, EKG, blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and CO2 level constantly monitored in real time until they are recovered).

Because they are done so routinely, many pet owners have minimized the seriousness of spay and neuter surgical procedures.  Spay especially is a major abdominal surgery technically called an ovariohysterectomy that involves tying off major blood vessels to prevent life threatening bleeding.  While the neuter procedure does not require entry into the abdomen, it still requires tying of major blood vessels to prevent hemorrhage and requires an incision that could get infected if both the patient and veterinarian are not properly prepped (and also requires safe administration of anesthesia).

There are many ways to save money when frugality is called for.  Surgery should not be one of them.

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.

2 thoughts on “Price Shopping For A Spay Or Neuter Procedure? Read This First!

  1. I think we charge way too much for spays/neuters. If we truly cared for pets, we’d do it for free, as a public service. I did low cost spays/neuters for years. Working for a large corporation now, I am forced to charge but I do them for free sometimes and not tell the management.

  2. Agatha says:

    How long does it take to complete this article? I believe there will be many people who share my views when they read this article from you!

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