Three Reasons Spay & Neuter Prices Vary So Much

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Kittens who need to be spayed can get cat insurance.
Two of the most common routine procedures performed on pets are spaying and neutering. The benefits of spaying of a female dog, called routine ovariohysterectomy, and neutering a male dog, castration, include population control, fewer incidents of certain types of cancers and fewer hormonally-driven behaviors.

Because spaying and neutering are such popular procedures, it tends to be one of the most shopped-for veterinary surgeries. Routine pet insurance can help cover the cost, but we often have people call and ask about our prices anyway. The fact that there are such varying prices between vet hospitals and clinics can be confusing. Why would Clinic A cost so much more than Clinic B? Here are some things to recognize when deciding where to take your new best friend for his or her first surgical procedure.

1. Basic Requirements for All Surgeries
Some things must be absolutely standard in every spay and neuter, regardless of the cost. It is unacceptable if the price is lower because one of these standards of care is omitted.

– Pain medication and anesthesia should be used for every patient

– A new set of sterile, clean surgical instruments should be used for each individual procedure

– A licensed veterinary medical doctor should be performing the procedure

– Every pet should be examined by a licensed veterinarian prior to the surgery to ensure there aren’t underlying problems that would make anesthesia risk

2. Low-Cost Clinics and Their Effects on Pricing

Understand that although these procedures are routine, they are still major surgeries.  Especially in a female, an ovariohysterectomy is major abdominal surgery, comparable to a woman having a hysterectomy.  The price often doesn’t reflect the nature of the surgery. Veterinarians typically lose money on spays and neuters, but benefit by creating a doctor-client bond that will ensure you will keep coming back for your pet’s care as he or she grows. That being said, there is still a large range in price, even setting aside regional differences. Why is this?

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The biggest reason is due to low cost spay and neuter clinics. These often work through a shelter or humane society and are subsidized by generous donations and have other outside sources of income that allow the procedure to be performed at a reduced cost. Sometimes they only serve people with a financial hardship who can prove they are a low income family. In addition, these clinics often perform extremely high volume procedures, meaning that they can cover costs by the sheer number of surgeries performed in a day. It’s still possible for the procedure to be done safely, but if you’re going this route, ensure the minimum standards of care (above) are met.

3. Additional Safeguards

Another big influence on cost is the use of advanced monitoring systems and safety precautions, such as the use of IV fluids and intravenous catheter with every surgery. An IV catheter allows the doctor immediate access to your pet’s veins in case a problem arises during surgery, and fluids administered can help maintain blood pressure and replace any blood lost. Veterinary monitoring systems can be as advanced as in human medication, and involve monitoring percentage of oxygenation in the blood, blood pressure, CO2 levels, electrocardiogram, temperature and respiration rate.  This allows anesthesia to be a safe as possible, but will obviously cost more money.

Some veterinary hospitals will recommend or require pre-anesthesia blood work to ensure organ function is within normal limits. Ensuring your pet can metabolize the drugs used during anesthesia will make it safer. This, of course, costs more too.

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How To Compare

The next time you are price shopping for routine veterinary procedures, be sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Clinic A might be more expensive because they’re giving you more advanced medicine and a safer procedure. Be sure you ask for the minimum standards of care discussed earlier, and never compromise on these standards. Low cost spay/neuter clinics have their place in society, but understand why they are able to charge less.

Choosing where you want to take your new fluffy family member is a big decision, and you should feel comfortable with the place you choose. Consider pet health insurance as a way to lessen the financial burden of your puppy or kitten’s first year.

For additional information on this topic, watch this video, based on a question posted on the Pets Best Insurance Facebook page.


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