Spaying/Neutering your Pet at a Regular Clinic vs Low Cost May Save Its Life

by Carolyn Karrh, DVM

I lost a patient this past weekend. I don’t know why and I will likely never know, as the owners of the dog decided not to have a necropsy to find out. They blame me, however. This would not be the first time I’ve been blamed for the death of an animal (nor will it be the last), and though I can’t be certain, there are likely some that I was responsible for, directly or indirectly—-unintentionally, of course. I recall during my senior year of vet school telling a classmate that I was terrified of losing a patient or accidentally killing a pet. A nearby faculty member, typing quietly on her computer, overheard me, and without moving or turning her head, said gently, in a conversational tone, “You will.”

cat save lifeThis large-breed dog was spayed at a great low-cost clinic, and though she was a big, obese girl who had recently had puppies, there were no complications with her procedure and she recovered well and went home bright and alert. The next night, the owners called to say that she hadn’t been feeling well the morning following surgery (sadly, they did not call or take her to the vet), and that she had died later that night. Then they emailed— to say that I was negligent. That I was responsible. That I didn’t know how to properly care for their dog before, during and after surgery. They stated that it was my fault. They even sent an article and asked me to read it so that I understood how to be a good veterinarian and surgeon to other dogs, “so this never happens again.”

As people often do, they look to seek blame—they are sad, confused, angry, and need a direction for their feelings. And I understand that. Of course I feel terrible….for them, for the dog. Anytime an animal dies, I am heartbroken, as we all should be if we have any degree of empathy for people and the pets they love. But I do not feel responsible for their dog’s death. I am a good veterinarian and I am a good surgeon. I did everything the way I have typically done in my previous thousands of other surgeries (as did our staff)…..and I care.

I don’t know why this dog died—-unknown or unintentional surgical complications, underlying metabolic disease, bleeding disorder, improper home care, etc.—but I do know that the owners had bred this dog, have had several of their dogs spayed at our clinic before without issue, they declined bloodwork, they didn’t reveal pertinent medical history before surgery, and they didn’t call or seek medical attention when they knew something wasn’t right. Though we will never know the significance of these choices or whether the outcome would have been different, partial responsibility, at least, must be placed back on the owners for some of their decisions. I don’t fault these parents for their misdirected anger and hurt, but I think situations like this warrant a conversation about the risks of surgery and anesthesia—-specifically the risk differences in surgery in a shelter or low-cost spay/neuter clinic and in a full-service veterinary hospital.

I don’t want to imply that low-cost facilities provide sub-standard care (though people often assume this)—perhaps there are some, but typically this is not the case. In fact, spay/neuter clinics often have very experienced veterinarians who work quickly in surgery, often lowering many anesthetic risks that might be seen in places where pets are under anesthesia longer. In addition to managing my own non-profit organization for pets of the homeless community, I work in two other places—in a low-cost spay/neuter clinic run by a local shelter, and in a high-end, AAHA accredited, full-service veterinary hospital. I have also worked at other well-established full-service hospitals and I do relief work at several other low-cost spay/neuter clinics because I believe in the cause. I am the same doctor in each and I spay and neuter dogs and cats the same way in all places. How can I be a great, caring surgeon in one place and a terrible, negligent doctor in another? Additionally, there is a common misconception that full-service veterinary hospitals are money-hungry, that they price-gouge and charge too much for the services they provide, including surgery. I’m sure this is true for some places, however, for the most part, this is not the case. What I have come to realize is that people simply do not understand the differences and reasons full-service hospitals charge what they do, versus what low-cost clinics provide, when offering the “same” service or surgery. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, “My God, my vet wants to charge me $400 but I can get my pet spayed down the street for 50 bucks!” then I could retire yesterday.


I am going to shed a little light on these differences here so you and those you know can make an informed decision when considering and scheduling your pet’s surgery and where you would like to do this. Why is the surgery $50 in one place and $400 in another? Think about it. It’s the same procedure, but what might be different so that the cost can be less? In order to offer a surgery for a negligible price, corners have to be cut. So I am going to tell you what those corners are (this is variable from place to place, but generally true). And I’m certain my low-cost clinic veterinary colleagues will be amenable to me offering this information because no one is trying to hide anything and we all want the same thing—to work with informed owners and provide a successful, safe surgery for all of our patients.

1) Low-cost clinics do not typically require or offer bloodwork before surgery. One main reason for this is because most young, healthy animals do not have any underlying metabolic issues. But there are always exceptions. If the clinic provides a bloodwork option, your cost will go up. But if you decline the bloodwork or if the clinic doesn’t offer it, if your pet has an underlying medical issue (liver or kidney disease, bleeding disorder, etc.), the vet and staff will not know and the risk for surgical and post-op complications will go up. Or your pet may die. Bloodwork helps your vet and staff know what risks are present, what anesthetic drugs to use and/or whether your pet can even safely have surgery.

2) Low-cost clinics do not usually place an IV catheter or give intravenous fluids to your pet during surgery. One of the reasons for this is that most high-volume spay/neuter veterinarians are able to perform surgery in a fraction of the time of many others (often less than 5-10 minutes), simply due to experience. But why might an IV catheter and fluids be important? Fluids provide assistance with blood pressure stability and perfusion to organs. If your pet has trouble with blood pressure, decreased perfusion to important organs may cause them to fail, typically not seen for days or weeks after your pet goes home. Most young, healthy animals will not have this problem and typically the surgery is quick, but not always. If your hospital provides this, your cost will go up.

3) Low-cost clinics have limited staffing and cannot provide constant attention to your pet before, during and after surgery. There are often only one or two veterinary technicians or assistants on staff during a typical surgery day, and they are commonly multi-tasking. The most consistent time we see complications or accidental death is right after surgery, in recovery—this is true for any hospital or clinic. If your pet is not directly monitored by a technician at all times, if they have any difficulty in surgery or recovery, it is possible that a minute or two (or more) may go by without this difficulty being noticed. This is not intentional, of course—it has to do with the number of staff available. If a hospital provides constant nursing care and monitoring for your pet, your cost will go up.

4) Low-cost clinics do not routinely monitor CO2 levels, ECG, blood pressure and constant body temperature for your pet during surgery. A pulse-oximeter is usually the only monitoring device present, revealing heart rate and oxygen perfusion in the blood, which are important. But other vital signs can be important too. Hypothermia can make recovery long and difficult, ECG readings help determine any heart abnormalities, abnormal CO2 levels can be deadly, and I’ve already explained what low blood pressure can do. Again, the the most common reason for not monitoring these things is that the surgery is often less than 5-10 minutes, so significant changes are unlikely in young, healthy animals. If your hospital provides these other monitoring devices, the equipment costs money and the trained/certified staff member must be paid to be there, use them and know how to manage any complications….so your cost goes up.

5) Low-cost clinics do not provide a full, comprehensive physical exam and vet consultation for your pet before surgery. Exams are limited due to the number of surgeries that must be performed in a day. You do not have an opportunity to discuss your pet’s health and concerns with a vet before the surgery is performed. There may be an area on your drop-off sheet where you can write your concerns, however you likely never see or meet your veterinarian. If your hospital provides time and an opportunity for a comprehensive exam and discussion with your vet, that’s right, your cost goes up.

6) Low-cost clinics are not the best option for higher-risk pets: large and giant breed dogs, senior pets, brachycephalic breeds (those with flat/smashed faces), obese, in-heat, pregnant and aggressive dogs and cats, those with a history of medical issues, etc. Low-cost clinics are not typically set up to handle emergencies if they arise or hospitalize animals overnight for additional care if necessary. They lack the proper equipment, training, staffing and time to handle anything outside of a normal, healthy patient surgery and recovery. If your hospital is set up for this, your cost will go up.

So, you see where the costs are cut? There are liability waivers to be signed and information is provided to help owners make reasonably informed decisions, however, most places do 30-50 surgeries in a day and shelters and low-cost clinics simply cannot afford the time and staffing to have lengthy discussions with every owner about the differences in what they do and what full-service clinics do. And 99.9% of the time, pets recover well in these facilities and there are no issues, so these discussions do not typically take precedence. That being said, owners should take some responsibility and do their own research—-if a surgery is $400 in one place and $50 in another, you must use common sense and ask questions to discern this difference (this information is also true for places that offer dental cleanings for $100 versus your vet who quotes you $800—ask questions because there are definitive differences.) Conversely, just because a surgery cost is higher at your vet, it doesn’t mean they offer all these other services—again, you must ask questions. Do you provide bloodwork? Does my pet receive a comprehensive physical exam, a limited exam or any exam at all? What sort of monitoring is done? Will there be a technician with my pet at all times? Do you give IV fluids? What do you do in the event of an emergency—are you prepared to handle an emergency? Understand the services offered so you can make an educated decision. Low-cost spay/neuter clinics can be good options for young, healthy, low-risk pets and for those who cannot afford the cost of a full-service hospital—that’s why they exist. And that’s why I will always support them and continue to do this rewarding, necessary work and help provide a solution to the pet overpopulation problem. But it’s important to understand what you are getting and what you are NOT getting. There are risks. Of course, there are risks regardless of where you go, as some complications cannot be foreseen regardless of the amount of care given and preparation taken, but the risk is higher when you do not understand the above points.

This article is not to dissuade you from using a low-cost clinic—-many places are amazing facilities with wonderful, caring, experienced technicians, assistants and veterinarians, and thousands of pets have surgeries in low-cost clinics across the country every day without incident, including many in the higher-risk category above. This information is only to help you understand the differences in the services provided from place to place and how to make an informed decision when thinking about your pet’s surgery. Things cost money. People cost money. Equipment haspays to be purchased and maintained. Staff must be trained to use this equipment, run labwork, monitor your pet appropriately and recognize and manage complications. Veterinarians must be paid to perform the surgeries and supervise all surgical, anesthetic and post-operative care. Providing additional services requires more time and resources. So, suddenly, a $400 surgery makes sense when you understand what risks you may be taking for $50, right?

Again, I don’t know why this dog died, and perhaps the outcome would have been the same regardless of where the surgery was done or if the owners had made different choices, but after receiving an angry email from a heartbroken dog-parent whose beloved pet died from unknown complications, accusing me of being a negligent vet and not caring for their pet appropriately, I wonder —–if they understood this information and the risks involved, would they have paid the $400?

Originally published on!THE-DIFFERENCE/c1l9s/1

5 Paw-fect Mobile Apps For Pet Owners


Having a lovable furry companion can be one of life’s sweetest joys. However, pet parenting isn’t always a walk in the park and there may be times when you might find yourself in a pickle. Lucky for you, technology is here to help make things a little easier. From wondering whether your dog can have a bite of your leftover mushroom sandwich to feeling anxious about leaving him behind when you leave on a week-long vacation, these 5 mobile apps for pet owners have got your tech-savvy back.


Animal Poison Control Centre App

animal poison control centre app

Just because something is safe for you to chow down on, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s also safe to be consumed by your pet. Many items around the house like garlic and avocados are harmless to humans but are actually toxic to our furry friends. This handy (and free) app helps you identify hundreds of items commonly found around the home that may be potentially hazardous to your pet. In the event that your pet may have ingested something poisonous, there’s a handy speed dial button to contact the Animal Poison Control Centre immediately.

Available for download on iOS and Android.


wag appEver encountered days when you’ve been too busy to take your dog for a walk? Wag connects you with dog walkers in your neighborhood right away or in advance, to ensure your pooch gets its much-needed exercise for the day. If you start missing your dog the moment it gets picked-up and begins its stroll, there’s an option to live-track the whole walk on the app’s GPS map. You’ll even get a report card detailing things like distance covered, pictures or videos taken during the walk and even if your pet answered nature’s call – almost as if you did the walking yourself!

Available for download on iOS.


pawprint app

In case you haven’t heard, our app PawPrint, helps you keep track of your pet’s records in one convenient app. It fetches your pet’s health records from your vet and stores it electronically in the app. So, whether you’re taking your dog to the groomers, a boarding facility or even to a new vet, you’ll be able to provide up-to-date information about your treasured four-legged friend to its caretaker. You’ll also be able to input additional information like your pet’s diet and behavior. With PawPrint, you can say goodbye to relying on paper records about your pet and hello to securely stored digital data.

Available for download on iOS and Android.


bringfido app

If you’re planning on hitting the road and bringing your along pooch with you, then the BringFido app is a must-have. It lets you search for pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, parks and pretty much any pet-friendly attractions nearby. It also saves you money by letting you search for hotels that don’t charge pet fees and lets you narrow your search by price. What’s awesome is that you can book hotel rooms right in the app. Besides helping you find pet-friendly accommodation and attractions, BringFido also lists local dog walkers, groomer, sitters, vets, pet stores and upcoming dog events.

Available for download on iOS.


dogvacay appInarguably, one of the hardest parts of being a pet parent is having to leave your beloved pet behind when you go off on a holiday. Sure, there’s the option to send it to a boarding facility, but it’s also heartbreaking knowing that your pooch could be spending the majority of its day in a cage. Meet DogVacay, an app that connects you with over 20,000 pet sitters who will lovingly take good care of your pet while you’re away. You can even opt to receive daily updates including photos and videos of your pet from your trusty sitter. With DogVacay, you can truly enjoy your time away knowing your pooch is in loving hands.

Available for download on iOS and Android.

5 All-Natural Doggie-licious Treats You Can Whip Up For Your Pooch

Jazz-up snack time by spoiling your four-legged companions with homemade doggie treats. What’s great about making treats from scratch is that you’re in complete control of what goes into them. This includes avoiding nasty additives and preservatives usually found in store-bought treats and only using natural ingredients for your precious pooch. Plus, there’s always the option to customize recipes according to your dog’s distinctive palate.

Ready to have some fun? Try your hand at these 5 incredibly easy-to-make treats that are wholesomely delicious and bound to leave tails wagging.

1. Frosty Paws

frosty paws

If you’ve ever savored a delicious ice pop during sweltering temperatures, you’ll know it doesn’t get more satisfying than that. Now your dog can join in the fun too and beat the heat with these chilly Frosty Paws.

  • You’ll need:
    1 ½ cups yoghurt
    1 banana
    ¼ cup peanut butter
    1 tbsp honey

Blend all ingredients together and pour the mixture into molds. Cupcake tins or silicone molds work best. Freeze for a few hours or till they’re set before popping them out onto a surface for your dog to lap up. You can even get creative by sticking other small treats in the centre just before the paws set.

Recipe source

2. Dog Chews

dog chews

Got a bunch of sweet potatoes or yams lying around? Awesome, because your dog is in for a chewy-licious time. These Dog Chews are made from only one ingredient: sweet potatoes and are a much tastier (and healthier) treat for your dog to chew on than your favorite pair of running shoes.

  • You’ll need:
    Sweet potatoes or yams

Pre-heat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash and dry your potatoes before slicing them into thin pieces of ¼ to ⅓ inches. There’s no need to peel the skin.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the potato slices on them. Bake for 3 hours or till they’re completely dry and chewy. Be sure to turn them halfway through baking.

Allow chews to cool before serving to your dog. Store leftovers in an air-tight container and keep them in the fridge or freezer.

Recipe source

3. Peanut Butter Dog Treats

peanut butter dog treats

This homemade treat requires slightly more ingredients and effort compared to the others on this list, but we have a feeling that it’s totally worth it. Word on the blog-comment-street is that these Peanut Butter Dog Treats are a hit with a multitude of four-legged peeps. We suspect it may be the addition of crispy bacon that’s the cause of wagging tongues and tails in kitchens all over the country.

  • You’ll need:
    1 cup of peanut butter
    ¾ cup non-fat milk
    1 large egg (or ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce)
    2 cups whole wheat flour
    1 tbsp baking powder
    ⅓ cup oats
    2-3 strips cooked bacon, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, mix the peanut butter, milk and egg. Add the flour and baking powder.

If a spoon or spatula isn’t doing the trick, you might need to get your hands dirty by mixing in the flour into the dough by hand. Add in the oats and bacon. The dough should be thick and heavy.

Roll the dough on a floured surface and cut out shapes using cookie cutters or a knife. Arrange onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 18-20 mins or until cookies are light brown at the bottom.

Allow cookies to cool before serving. Store in an air-tight container for up to 1 week at room temperature or up to 2 months in the freezer.

Recipe source

4. Bacon Dog Treats

bacon dog treats

Mmmmm…bacon. If you’ve established that your dog goes bananas for all things bacon, then this treat is definitely worth a try. We love that it doesn’t require actual bacon bits, but just the grease. So, instead of tossing leftover bacon grease from your fry-ups, why not save it and use it to make this delicious treat for your dog instead?

  • You’ll need:
    2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
    ⅓ – ½ cup bacon grease at room temperature
    ½ cup water
    1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, whisk the egg, water and bacon grease together. Add the flour and mix till a dough forms. Add more flour (a little at a time) if the dough is still sticky.

Roll the dough on a floured surface till it’s ½ to ¼ inch in thickness. Prick the entire surface with a fork and use cookie cutters to cut them into shapes.

Place cut-out cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 25-30 minutes or till they’re golden brown.

Allow to cool completely before serving them to your dog.

Recipe source

5. Doggie Breath Mints

doggie breath mints

If your furry companion’s kisses and licks have left you turning the other cheek lately, it may be time for some breath-freshening action. But don’t grab a doggie toothbrush just yet. Instead, make the cleaning affair a tasty and enjoyable one for your dog with this treat. It includes the breath-freshening powers of parsley and mint for pleasant kisses all around.

  • You’ll need:
    2 ½ cups oats or whole wheat flour
    ½ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
    ½ cup fresh mint, finely chopped
    1 large egg or ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
    ¼ cup of water, plus 1 tsp
    3 tbsps coconut or olive oil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. If using oats, blend it till it becomes flour-like. In a large bowl, whisk the parsley, mint, egg, water and oil. Add the oats or flour to form a dough.

Knead dough a few times and roll on a floured surface till it’s about ⅛ inch in thickness. Use a cookie cutter or knife to cut out desired shapes. Place cut-out cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the mints are golden and crispy. Allow to cool before serving them to your dog. Store leftover mints in an air-tight container at room temperature.

Recipe source

Pawprint App Update: Photos & Synced Records


Attach pictures to any event. Capture that perfect post-groom look, a special birthday memory, an afternoon nap, or even an important document.

Additional updates in version 2.2.5:
– Support for offline use
– More responsive navigation for easy access to all your information
– Updated date picker & dialogs interface


You can now get access to up-to-date records without resubmitting the consent form each time. Click the button below to let your vet know you want this! Integration takes less than 30 minutes and saves everyone involved a ton of time.


Thank you for reading and being a supporter of Pawprint.


Pawprint Pets – Kitty’s story

We asked some of our users to share the story of their furry friends and this is what Pete Dinnella sent us about his adorable Kitty:

“We adopted “Valentine” just over 3 years ago. She was found wandering the streets of Glendale AZ and they felt she was out there for quite some time due to her weight and cuts/scratches. After seeing her picture and profile online, my wife and I drove 40 miles to visit with her. It was love at first sight for the 3 of us.

Being a street cat for so long, we found she had a wonderful attitude. Nothing seems to phase her. She maintains her “been there, done that” attitude about everything! She’s the best.

She is currently just about 5 years old as far as we can tell, and her last Vet visit listed her as a “perfect physical specimen”, their words, not mine!

We’ve called her “Kitty” since the day she came home (unimaginative, I know, but it fits her), though my nickname for her is “Itty Bitty Pretty Kitty”……

We are in our early 50’s and I’ve had more than my share of pets, though mostly for our children, but Kitty has REALLY worked her way into my heart. She’s my little girl and I love her totally!!”

Thank you Pete for sharing this amazing story!

Please share your pet’s story with our Pawprint community! You can send it to

Kitty Pawprint


Rescued Jindo, Misty

I’ve always had a lot of respect for owners who have fostered or adopted rescue dogs. There are too many dogs in shelters and too few owners who are able to help.

Misty is a Jindo, rescued by Fred. Jindo is a rare Korean breed that many have not heard of, sometimes confused with the popular Shiba Inu.

Jindos do not usually fare well in shelters due to stress and are usually identified as overly shy or aggressive. As such, once Jindos arrive at shelters, they are often deemed un-adoptable and unfortunately euthanized way too quickly.

Two Dog Farms is a non-profit rescue group comprised of volunteer workers and foster homes, based out of Nevada, that predominately rescues Jindos. The group consists of a network of experienced animal lovers who rescue Jindos all across the West Coast. Misty was rescued in Tacoma, WA, along with four other Jindos, after their owner was arrested for five counts of animal cruelty, neglect, and abuse.

Misty, a rescue Jindo

Misty, a rescued Jindo


Luckily for Misty, as well as a large number of Jindos, Two Dog Farms contacted the Tacoma Humane Society and placed them in the care of foster homes who are experienced with the breed. Fred is one of those foster parents. However, once Misty entered Fred’s life, she found herself a fur-ever home.



Please remember to check your shelters and reach out to non-profit pet rescues if you are ready to open your home and heart to a furry companion.