I have not worked in your county, but I have worked at countless spay/neuter events sponsored by Woodstock Animal Foundation in the last several years. I have not found conditions to be anything like what Dr. Mickey describes without first hand experience at such an event.
To answer some of Dr. Mickey’s questions using first hand experience, let me try to explain why these high volume clinics can handle so many surgeries both safely and at a moderate price. Community involvement at these events is key to their success. A small army of dedicated volunteers handles scheduling, setting up the clinic, running errands, client education and clean up afterwards. This helps reduce or eliminate the overhead expenses that would add to the cost in a full service veterinary clinic. Next is the generosity and efficiency of participating veterinarians and veterinary technicians willing to work for greatly reduced rates, often even volunteering their time, working for no charge. High volume spay and neuter is one place where the old adage “practice makes perfect” is close to being true. I have noted that working these clinics has definitely improved my surgical speed and efficiency and I would assume this would hold true for other veterinarians as well. One other factor is that groups such as Woodstock are nonprofit. They are willing to work for no profit, often even at great expense, to try to make things better for pets in the communities that they serve.
Dr. Mickey expresses concerns about the amount of client education that is done at these clinics. Topics such as parasite control, vaccinations, heartworm prevention, etc. are discussed with clients by the staff at these events. Minor medical problems that are noted on preoperative exams are pointed out to clients and they are urged to follow up with full service clinics to correct these problems. If major problems are noted that would potentially affect anesthetic safety, surgery is delayed and clients are referred to full service clinics to have these evaluated before surgery.
Dr. Mickey is correct in stating that the best possible care would be to have preoperative blood work and full anesthestic monitors for each pet, and that this is not feasible in a high volume clinic. If a client can afford this level of care, then that is definitely what they should pursue. But, low cost clinics make spay and neuter surgeries available to the many pets that belong to people who cannot afford surgery at full price and who otherwise would not receive any medical care. The quality of the actual surgery done at these clinics is no different than that done at a full service clinic. The same anesthetics are used, each patient is maintained on isoflurane gas during the procedure, the same suture is used, and the level of asepsis in the surgery area is the same as other clinics around our state. Animals are monitored during anesthesia by trained veterinary technicians and experienced assistants.
I would like to invite Dr. Mickey to visit one of Woodstock Animal Foundation’s spay/neuter clinics and observe how they are actually run. Maybe if he saw for himself the quality of these operations he would not be as concerned with what goes on there, and he might even be willing to work with us to help save as many lives as possible.
Dr. Teresa Gregory, DVM