“How much do you charge for a spay/neuter?”
By Brittany Standifer, Hospital Manager
Such a frequent question we get asked at almost every General Practice I have ever worked at. The worst part about this question is that I know when I give you a cost, most clients are going to panic and as soon as I start to explain what is included in that cost, most clients have already stopped listening because they are still stuck on the dollar signs. As a fellow pet mom, I know how expensive veterinary care can get and as a Veterinary Technician, I know how important it is to seek out quality.
When searching for a hospital to have your pet’s surgery done at, it is most important to compare apples to apples and not to oranges. There is a large amount of great spay and neuter clinics that offer free to low-cost surgeries. These clinics sterilize a very large number of animals daily, allowing us to better attempt to get a handle on animal overpopulation, which is a great thing. However, I am a firm believer in knowing what you are paying for. When your animal is dropped off at these clinics, they are one of many animals that will be seen that day- most clinics can average up to 20+ pets a day.
At Wasatch Hollow Animal Hospital, your pet is one of 2-3 procedures that day which means your animal gets personal and exclusive care during their whole stay with us. There is a Veterinary Technician with them from start to finish and they also have the undivided attention of their Veterinarian, who knows their name and their medical history- usually having been witness to their growth since puppyhood.
In order to provide the best and safest care our costs are higher than a Spay and Neuter clinic. It is important when comparing a “regular” veterinary clinic with a Spay and Neuter to understand what you will be receiving at both places and how we differ.
When you first come in, we ask you a series of questions- when did your pet last eat? Has your pet eaten rat bait or any other toxins in the last year? Can we do pre-anesthetic bloodwork prior? This allows us the opportunity to screen for any issues that may occur during their procedure in hopes of preventing them.
Then, we always place an IV catheter prior to any anesthesia. This is crucial. In the awful case of an emergency, attempting to place an IV catheter in a critical patient is not only harder, but sometimes can cost us time that we do not have when we need to resuscitate your pet. With this IV catheter, we are able to administer pre-medications intravenously which makes it safer for the actual anesthetics and allows us to use less of the big gun medications.
We are also able to administer IV fluids throughout the procedure. This allows us to keep your pet hydrated and gives us a way to manage any decrease in blood pressure that can occur.
We then intubate your pet. We use a plastic tube- called an endotracheal tube- that is placed in their trachea under special care that allows us to keep them under anesthesia with a gas anesthetic agent. This tube also protects them from vomiting and aspirating into their lungs with a special “cuff” that we inflate. With the anesthetic gas, which we can decrease and increase as needed, we are also are giving your pet oxygen.
They are hooked up to a monitoring machine that allows us to monitor the waves of their heart, their blood pressure and their pulse oximetry. If we see any abnormalities, we are able to go into action immediately to remedy the issue before it becomes life threatening. I cannot express how many pets I have seen develop severe hypotension during their procedure that I was able to immediately fix with fluids and additives. If the hypotension is caused from internal bleeding- I am able to notify the doctor so they fix the bleed promptly. I can also monitor and make sure your pet doesn’t become too “deep” under anesthesia and adjust accordingly. Your pet is also on a state-of-the-art heating surgical table that helps us maintain an appropriate body temperature throughout their procedure.
After the doctor finishes with your pet’s surgery, a Veterinary Technician is with your pet monitoring post-operative body statistics, removing the endotracheal tube, actively warming your pet, and most of all, comforting them through the scary experience of waking up not knowing where they are or how they got there. As a person who always cries after being woken up from anesthesia because of the confusion (really, you can ask my mom)- I think this is almost the most important part! We are there, someone that they have typically known almost their whole lives, offering them the comfort we would want offered to our own pets.
Most Veterinary studies that discuss mortality rate in healthy, anesthetized animals record a 1:2000 mortality. That means that 1 out of 2000 healthy animals that go under anesthesia will die a death that is caused purely because of the anesthesia and not because of any genetic or health issue that pet has. Personally, 1:2000 is too much of a chance that I would be willing to risk with my personal pet under anesthesia that is not carefully monitored and tailored for them.
If you can afford and want to provide your pet with the highest standard of care available, it is important to discuss the safety of anesthesia that your clinic practices and understand the differences different hospitals may offer. The best decision is always an informed decision and low-cost may be good for your pocket book but may not offer the standard of care you want for your furry family member.