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12/12/12

The cost (price) of neutering a dog


Much as I would love to be able to do so, to attempt to place a flat $ figure on the costs of desexing a dog would be grossly irresponsible of me and quite impossible to do. The cost of desexing male dogs is greatly variable and varies from place to place and region to region. It depends on many factors including: the size of the vet clinic, the competition the vet clinic has, the nature of the clinic (e.g. is it a shelter clinic), the suburb the clinic is located in, the size (weight) of the dog, whether the animal is a cryptorchid or not and so on.


In this section, I will give you an idea of the costs and the range of prices that may exist in one town/city when you are considering getting your dog neutered in Australia. (The principles discussed here will most likely to apply to any city in the world). I will outline the ways that vets arrive at these prices and discuss ways that you can source lower cost and discount neutering.

The typical cost of neutering a male dog at a veterinary clinic.

For this section, I rang 9 of the veterinary practices in Canberra, Australia, asking about the costs of routine desexing for a 7kg dog, a 20kg dog and a 40kg dog. The clinics were chosen at random, aside from the fact that five of them were large, multiple-vet practices and the other four were small 1-2 vet practices. The prices (in Australian dollars) are listed below (for legal reasons, I can not identify the clinics I contacted). 

Clinic 1:
7kg dog - $260; 20kg dog - $270; 40kg dog - $300.

Clinic 2:
Dog <12kg - $215-260; 12-30kg dog - $260-319; >30kg dog - $319+ (a 40kg dog was about $340).

Clinic 3:
0-10kg dog - $240-250; 20kg dog - $250-260; >40kg dog - $300-310.

Clinic 4:
<20kg dog - $319; 20-40kg dog - $355; >40kg dog - $406.

Clinic 5:
7kg dog - $200; 20kg dog - $215; 40kg dog - $230.

Clinic 6:
7kg dog - $265; 20kg dog - $290; 40kg dog - $380.

Clinic 7:
7kg dog - $280; 20kg dog - $300; 40kg dog - $330.

Clinic 8:
7kg dog - $210; 20kg dog - $230; 40kg dog - $250.
Clinic also featured a 10% discount for multiple dogs.

Clinic 9:
7kg dog - $145; 20kg dog - $145; 40kg dog - $145.
Clinic also featured a 10% discount for multiple dogs despite the low prices.

Summary:
Highest prices: 7kg dog - $319; 20kg dog - $355; 40kg dog - $406.

Lowest prices: 7kg dog - $145; 20kg dog - $145; 40kg dog - $145.

You can see from this small survey that there is some variation in price range and that, therefore, it pays to shop around. In this case, the difference in price would have been significant had you shopped around (in the case of a 40kg dog, you would have saved yourself $261).Veterinary clinics are competitive entities and many will attempt to undercut others on price to secure you as a client. 

How do vet clinics arrive at their charges?

Overall, veterinary clinics charge a lot for surgery and medication for two main reasons: the high costs of running the practice (veterinary clinics are expensive to own and maintain) and the high costs of veterinary drugs (drug companies charge vets a lot of money for the drugs we purchase). Staff costs are high, land rates are high, equipment costs are high and many drugs only have a certain limited shelf-life (used-by date), after which they can not be used and are therefore wasted. 

As a general rule, the larger, multiple-vet veterinary clinics tend to charge more for their surgical procedures than the smaller one to two man vet clinics do. This is often because the larger clinics have massive staffing and operational overheads that need to be met through higher charges, however, higher costs can also sometimes be a sign of the quality of monitoring and patient care that your pet is receiving. The other reason large vet clinics tend to charge a lot more for their services is because they can. They have enough clients and reputation built up to not need to compete for your business: if you can't afford their fees, they don't mind if you look elsewhere as it doesn't affect their bottom line. On the flip side, sometimes large clinics will actually charge less for their routine procedures, such as neutering, because they benefit fromeconomics of scale (big places often save a lot on drugs and medications because they make such large orders with drug companies that the drug companies give them significant discounts). Clinic 3 in my survey was actually one of the largest clinics surveyed and its prices were surprisingly reasonable and in the low-middle range. 

Smaller clinics, on the other hand, do tend to charge less for their services, depending on where they are based and how much competition they have. Smaller clinics struggle to get a foothold in the market and will often have very competitive prices to get routine surgeries, such as castration surgeries, through the door. The two clinics with the lowest prices in the survey were both small, 1-3 man vet clinics. Be very choosy when opting to have your pet's surgery done through a small clinic, however: whilst most small vet clinics are run by highly competent people who provide a very good standard of care, some small clinics remain small because people know not to go to them (their service might be bad, their premises unclean or their patient care and monitoring not up to scratch). As a general rule, however, most vets in big and small clinics have done thousands of neutering surgeries (they're not hard to do) and it is unlikely that you will experience a problem even if you do go to a tiny little clinic in the middle of nowhere for your services. For example, the clinic that offered the lowest-priced services in my survey ($145 for a neutering surgery of any weight group) is a small clinic, however, it is run by an excellent surgeon who performs really good work. i.e. low procedural costs and small practice size does not always equate to poor service. 

Suburb also makes a huge difference to the price of services. Clinics in affluent suburbs, be they big or small (they are often large clinics), often charge much more for their services than clinics in lower socioeconomic suburbs. Their clients can afford to pay more. In my survey, suburb wealth was actually one of the most significant factors dictating the costs of neutering services. The most expensive clinic surveyed (Clinic 4) was a large, multi-vet practice located within a very rich area of Canberra. One of the next-most-expensive clinics (Clinic 7) was only a small, one-man practice, but it could charge high fees because it was also located within a wealthy area (in a similar location to clinic 4). 

Competition also makes a huge difference to the price of neutering services. Clinics in suburbs or towns that have many vet clinics often charge less for their services than vet clinics in towns where there is little to no competition. 

Finally, the size of the animal does make a big difference to the costs of desexing. Big dogs use more drugs, take more staff to lift them and have longer surgical times than small dogs do and they are therefore priced accordingly. Compare the prices for the 7kg versus the 40kg dog. 

Costs will also be increased if your dog experiences complications during the procedure (e.g. needs a blood transfusion during surgery) or if it has a neutering surgery that is more complex to perform than normal (e.g. the animal is cryptorchid and the vet needs to enter the animal's abdomen to find the retained testicle). Added costs will also apply if the pet needs pre-anaesthetic bloods done or needs additional procedures performed (e.g removal of a retained baby tooth, dewclaw removal, microchipping and so on).

Where and how to source lower cost and discount neutering.

Once again, for legal reasons, I can not name the names of veterinary clinics that offer discounted and low cost neutering services. I can, however, provide tips on how and where you might find them.

1. Ring around:

For the cost of a couple of phone calls to different clinics in my area, I was able to discover that the price of neutering varied by as much as $261. By shopping around, you can often find lower cost veterinary clinics in and around your area. 

2. Don't forget to look at clinics in lower socioeconomic areas:

Just because you live in an affluent area does not mean that you have to pay affluent area prices for your vet services. There is no rule to say that just because you live in a wealthy suburb, you need to go to a vet clinic in that suburb. Try looking outside of your area. A lot of veterinary clinics in lower socioeconomic areas provide perfectly good services (certainly, most can desex a dog with no trouble), but do not charge the kinds of prices that rich suburb clinics do. This was certainly borne out in my survey - the highest cost clinics were the wealthy suburb clinics.

3. Consider having your pet desexed by a shelter or pet charity such as the RSPCA:

Shelters these days often have large vet clinics attached to them, with veterinarians that perform thousands of desexing surgeries every year (shelter vets probably perform far more routine animal desexings than most other GP vets would do). These charity organisations tend to charge a good deal less for their services than commercialized private vet clinics do. Pensioners in particular can often receive good discounts for services at these places. 

4. If you are buying a dog, consider buying your pet from a shelter, pound or pet charity such as the RSPCA:

These animals are normally sold to you already vaccinated, neutered and microchipped. 

5. Find out what the threshold weight ranges are for desexing costs:

Most veterinary clinics have a series of pet weight ranges that they use when billing you for desexing. For example:
A dog of 0-10kg may cost $120 to neuter. 
A dog of 10-25kg may cost $150 to neuter.
A dog of 25-50kg may cost $180 to neuter.
A dog of 50kg+ may cost $200 to neuter. 

These are not accurate costs, I am just using them as example. 

If your pet is an overweight terrier that weighs in at 11kg, then you will be charged $150 to have it desexed (the same price as a 20kg Border Collie). If you can diet your pet a bit and get his weight down to just under 10kg, however, not only will he be happier and healthier for the weight loss, but he will now only cost $120 to neuter (a saving of $30). 

NOTE: please do not diet your pet unsafely just to get a reduced desexing fee. You will never be able to turn a 50kg dog into a 23kg dog safely! If your pet is overweight, however, or only a few hundred grams above a price threshold, some dieting may help you to move your pet into a marginally cheaper price range. 


Alternatively, you can ring around the various clinics and find out what their weight thresholds for price actually are. They're different in most clinics.

For example, Clinic A might charge according to these weight threshold levels:
A dog of 0-10kg may cost $120 to neuter. 
A dog of 10-25kg may cost $150 to neuter.

But, Clinic B might charge using different weight thresholds:
A dog of 0-12kg may cost $120 to neuter. 
A dog of 12-30kg may cost $150 to neuter.

In the case of the person with the overweight 11kg terrier, that person would have to diet the pet and reduce its weight to below 10kg in order to reach the $120 neutering weight of clinic A. The same person would not, however, have to do anything to reach the $120 neutering weight of clinic B because the weight cut-off for that same price is 12kg. 

 Free neutering.

It is very uncommon for any veterinary clinics to ever offer their clients free neutering. Neutering an animal for free is essentially a business loss to that clinic. 

If you live in a place where there are active, charity-run or government-operated pet control programs going on (e.g. in India and Cambodia where street dogs and pet dogs are desexed for free to reduce population numbers and the spread of diseases such as rabies or in Australia where aboriginal camp dogs are often government neutered to reduce their numbers and prevent the spread of mange and hookworm to the people), it may be possible for you to get a pet desexed for free. 
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