Cost of sterilisation Print
News - Briewe
Thursday, 19 March 2015 23:06
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Sheryl McBride writes to Dr Liesel:
Thank you for the insightful column, ‘Sterilising your pet’. My question is: Why does it cost so much to sterilise an animal? There are so many people who love and care for their animals but cannot afford the high cost of sterilisation. 

Most vets will not let people pay off the debt, so this means that the owner just does not have the resources to do what they know is right. Both my animals are sterilised but there was a time in my life where I just simply could not afford it and it is from that place that I am writing.

We lived across from a park in Witbank and often found animals that had been dumped and we know why people dump litters of animals. Having two children, they always wanted to take them in and keep them.

We could afford to take care of two animals, but we just could not afford the high cost of sterilisation and this lead to an uncertain future for the animals at the SPCA and two heartbroken kids and a heartbroken mother.

The prices are the going rate and vets will not give in and make an exception to the rule.

Why can’t vets set aside one day a month or every six weeks or whatever to do something for the community and halve the prices or just do it as a service?

I rescued a kitten out of an engine of a car this week and one of our workers fell in love with the kitten and has taken it home to his family, who are still bottle feeding it as I think it is about four or five weeks old and has not mastered the art of lapping yet.

Someone has given him a tin of royal kanine milk and bottles and I have told him about sterilisation and he has promised to do this, but when the time comes, will he be able to afford it?

Who knows? My belief is that if the cost of sterilisation was not so high, then more people would have it done and fewer animals would be abandoned.

Dr Liesel van der Merwe answers:
It costs a lot to run a veterinary practice. You have no idea how much medicines, equipment, or even the oxygen for anaesthetics cost. Then there are staff salaries, etc.

Especially for the female animals, it is quite a big operation (a hysterectomy), and carries the risk of haemorrhage if not performed properly. Sterilising the male cat is relatively simple and carries little risk.

Sterilising the male dog is also simple, but there are many post-op complications, from swelling to licking. The professional time taken can vary considerably from what is anticipated and follow-up examinations are preferable, especially if the client is less educated in animal health and welfare. 

Most vets do pro bono work on an ad hoc or organised basis, often linked to rescue centres. But this is on an individual basis.

Every day we as vets are confronted with people who are unable to pay their bills and this is one of the major stressors of our job. We have to draw the line, otherwise the business will no longer be viable.

Most of the vets are discounting clients’ accounts every month just so that they do not end up euthanizing patients that could otherwise survive an illness or procedure. 

As far as paying off goes: Well, let’s just say that many people promise the earth and then you never manage to get them on the phone again.

There are many non-profit organisations where people can go to have their animals sterilised for very little or even for free, such as the SPCA, Wet Nose, or the Community Vet Clinics (CVC), which are managed through the South African Veterinary Association (SAVA). Find them at www.vetassociation.co.za.

If you contact your local veterinarian you may find someone who is prepared to do pro bono work for a destitute case. But it is unfair to expect the veterinarian to help everyone. Some practices have a "fund" for needy cases and use that which is set aside to pay for costs not recovered, but there is a limit to this fund.

Sometimes it helps if people are willing to even pay half of the fee upfront just so that basic costs are covered. There is a responsibility on the owner and the veterinarian to try to come up with a plan. It is too often that we get “you are supposed to love animals” thrown back at us when we cannot discount or do a procedure for free.

As a pet owner you can save up a small amount each month for sterilisation and use that as a deposit; take out medical pet insurance; or find a cheaper alternative practice.

Compulsory community service is on the cards for vets for one year after qualifying and this should allow the establishment of more primary health care clinics.

Letter shortened. – Ed