The Truth About Low-Cost Clinics; How to Switch Vets

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Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m at home today answering questions from Pets Best Facebook page.

The first question comes from Samantha, who writes, “Is there any difference between having your pet spayed or neutered at a regular vet’s office versus a low-cost spay/neuter specific clinic?”

I love this question. I think this is a great question because sometimes I think the general public doesn’t actually realize what you’re getting at a clinic and why it’s more expensive. The low-cost spay/neuter clinics may be subsidized with donations. If it’s a Humane Society, those are non-profit organizations so they have more money that they can put towards that procedure. That’s one way they can keep their costs down. Another way they keep their costs down is by volume. A regular veterinary hospital may do between three and five procedures on a typical surgery day, whereas a low-cost spay/neuter place may do up to 60.

You can see that it becomes much more of an assembly line type of clinic with the low-cost spay/neuters. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad medicine or that it doesn’t have its place. I think that low-cost spay/neuter clinics are a fantastic way to help reduce pet overpopulation. But definitely ask questions. If you’re considering using a low-cost spay/neuter clinic, ask why it’s so inexpensive. If it’s because they get donations, then that may be different than if their answer is that they do 60 a day and can keep the cost down that way.

Talk with your regular clinic as well. Ask, “Why are you more expensive than the low-cost spay/neuter clinic?” They’ll probably say things like, “We have state-of-the- art monitoring,” or, “Every pet gets an IV catheter and fluids, or “We include pain medications or blood work,” or things that your low-cost spay/neuter clinic may not include. Definitely communicate with your regular veterinarian and with the low-cost spay/neuter clinic before you make your decision.

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The next question comes from Hilary, who writes, “I’m considering switching vets because I’m no longer happy with my current vet’s level of care. Is there any good way to break up with your vet? How do you ask for files to be transferred somewhere without it being awkward?”

This is a really great question and I think it’s great that you’re trying to be considerate. If you’re not comfortable with your veterinarian for whatever reason, you need to feel free to switch. I think most veterinarians are a sort of close-knit community and we want you to be happy.

If there’s something specific that you had a problem with, consider bringing it up with them. If they have a website with a ‘Comments’ section and you don’t feel comfortable naming yourself, you might comment anonymously. If you felt comfortable with it, you could even talk with the hospital manager and say you had a problem with some things. Most veterinary clinics really want to have that feedback so that they can be the best clinic that they can be for you.

If you are pretty set on switching to a new veterinarian, they don’t have to know why you’re switching. Typically what you’ll do is just call the office and say, “I need to have my records faxed to such and such a place”. It could be because you’ve moved or for any number of reasons. They are your files. They are your records so you’re allowed to do with them what you want. Most veterinary clinics will fax them wherever you want them to go.

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