Where Have All the Spays and Neuters Gone?

by Rebecca on February 4, 2013

spaysandneutersI am not sure if it is my imagination or not, but it seems most animal hospitals are not doing NEARLY the number of elective surgeries that they once were just a few years ago. There are probably many reasons why this has happened.

The number of low cost spay/neuter clinics has skyrocketed.  Actually, I am not even sure if these existed 10 years ago.  An interesting phenomenon in business exists and that is market demand creates new markets.

I wonder if all the advice that numerous “experts” gave us when they said, “just keep raising your prices-people will pay whatever you charge” is a huge component in ultimately taking away business from traditional small animal hospitals.

It seems that a lot of client’s response to ever escalating prices on routine procedures is a resounding “No, we can not afford it”.  Especially in these economic times, there are limits to what people can afford, even if they love their pet a great deal.

When it is between buying groceries and paying significantly more for a spay or neuter at your animal hospital versus at a low cost spay/neuter clinic, it is really not a difficult choice.

The interesting thing about this is I believe a lot of veterinarians aren’t comfortable continually raising prices on routine procedures. Unfortunately, however, we tend to rely on the advice of so called “experts” or follow what “everyone else is doing” rather than relying on what we know to be right and true.

I was at an animal hospital the other day, and they have decided to go against the recommendation of their consultant.  Instead of raising the prices of spays and neuters yet again they have decided to actually lower prices on these procedures.  They also have let their clients and future clients know what they are doing.  Not surprisingly, they have had an upswing in the number of elective surgeries they are now performing.

When you lose these spays and neuters, you are not only losing that surgery, but also potentially that customer for the life of that pet.  If you tend to have way higher prices on spays and neuters, customers will make the assumption that you will be way higher on vaccines etc. and start searching out alternatives for those as well.

I wish I had a simple answer to this complex problem, but I believe it is one that we must address. If we don’t, the traditional small animal hospital may become the minority instead of the majority over the next 10-20 years.

So what do you think? What is the reason for the downturn in elective surgeries, and what can you do to bring them back to your animal hospital?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Hilarie Jerauld March 25, 2013 at 1:10 pm

In our area, a huge component of the absence of spay/neuter surgeries is 80% of our new patients come from the Wake County SPCA – an awesome facility! They come to us neutered, microchipped, and fully vaccinated!
Our method for combating the low-cost spay/neuter for our few pure-bred pets is to establish a bond with them early in the pet’s life, be very transparent about the value of our services vs. the low cost option, and deliver the best customer service we can with every client contact. In most cases, our clients are not willing to compromise safety and peace of mind for a lower cost.
However, as technology continues to improve, we want to participate, but how do we do that without pricing ourselves out of what is practical for the client? Full mouth digital dental Xrays, endodontics, therapy laser, surgical laser – how do we bring these into our clinic and still charge our clients appropriately without being too costly?

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