Understanding the cost of shelter or low-cost spay and neuter clinics, versus your general practitioner.
We understand that in today’s economy, everyone wants to save money where they can; and we get it, veterinary bills aren’t cheap! We all shop around, whether it’s for gas, groceries or veterinary services. So it’s understandably confusing to pet owners why we’re charging upwards of $400-500 for spaying or neutering when the local shelter or low-cost clinic can do it for as little as $50-100. So let’s take a moment and break down the differences in fees. Now, this is nothing against low-cost spay and neuter clinics or shelters, it’s a great service they provide to our communities and are still performed by trained veterinarians. However, there are some key distinctions to keep in mind to help appreciate the value of having the surgery done by your general practitioner.
- Bloodwork. Your doctor may request pre-anesthetic bloodwork prior to surgery for a couple of reasons. Anesthetic drugs are metabolized and excreted primarily through the liver and kidneys, so it’s important to assess their function and make sure they are capable of doing just that. As well, blood work will run a complete blood count (CBC) which will check red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets (platelets help the blood to clot, which is important when they’re having surgery!). Shelters and low-cost clinics don’t always offer pre-anesthetic bloodwork as young, healthy cats and dogs don’t usually have underlying metabolic diseases; however, there are always exceptions and having that information beforehand greatly reduces anesthetic risks. There’s also the added benefit that having bloodwork done when they are healthy provides a great baseline reference, and should they run into medical problems in the future, we can look back and see what their values were at a time when they were healthy.
- IV Fluids. Anesthetic drugs can compromise blood pressure in a patient, so intravenous fluids help to counter that and maintain adequate perfusion to the body. In addition to maintaining blood pressure, should there be any anesthetic emergencies then we already have IV access which will allow us to get medications on board faster? Shelters and spay & neuter clinics usually try to perform as many surgeries as possible in a day, so they often don’t provide IV fluids in order to decrease time and cost; however as we just learned, there are associated risks with not having IV fluids.
- Personalized, Peri-operative Pain Management. Every patient that comes through our door has a physical examination the day of surgery. Based on the physical exam, the patient’s age, medical history and pre-anesthetic bloodwork, an individualized treatment plan is created that best fits each patient. They receive pain relief before, during and after the operation, through different routes (IM, IV, SQ), as well as pain medication to go home, all specific to the pet.
- Registered Veterinary Technicians. RVT’s are highly trained and educated nurses who have passed their province’s national exam and are there to ensure the comfort of your pet at all points of their stay at the clinic. They are knowledgeable about every part of the procedure and the medications being used. They are with your pet from the moment they come into the clinic, monitoring anesthesia and recovery; up to the point of discharge where they make sure pet parents have everything they need to continue care at home.
Whether you decide to have your pet’s surgery done at your general practitioner or at your local shelter, you should feel like your money is being well spent while still providing the best care to your pets. When deciding where to take your pet, keep these points in mind and ask the doctors and staff if they provide these services!
Written by College Manor Veterinary Hospital