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Low cost spay and neuter option

A very woozy Al recovering from general anaesthesia.
A very woozy Al recovering from general anaesthesia.
Patrycja Malinowska

Spaying or neutering your dog can be an expensive procedure, but don't use that as an excuse for delaying.  

If you've made the responsible decision to alter your pet, there is an affordable solution nearby. Earlier this week Al was neutered through South Elgin's Anderson Animal Shelter's low-cost spay and neuter program. For a dog weighing in at under 50 pounds, neutering costs $90 - about half of the usual cost at a regular veterinary clinic in this area. 

The catch is that your pet is transported to Mokena for the surgery. I was uneasy about my best friend traveling such a long distance with unfamiliar people, worried that he would be very confused and stressed. But Anderson had come highly recommended by family and I had spoken with a number of other dog owners at the dog park who gave the program a good review.

My boyfriend and I arrived at Anderson Animal Shelter at 5:30 a.m. to drop off Al. We waited in line inside the building to show proof of his rabies vaccine and sign a waiver. It was a bit caotic, with leashed dogs and crated cats all waiting to make the trip. While we waited for the transport van to arrive, we walked around outside to give Al something to do. He was cranky since he hadn't had anything to eat or drink since 10 p.m. the night before, and it was the only way to stop him from barking up a storm along with some of the other dogs. By the time the van arrived he was a visibly agitated from being near to so many other dogs, yet not being able to greet most of them. The women that were organizing the transport had us load him in a crate that was sitting at the back of the van, which would block his view of everything else that was going on so that he could calm down - and then we were off.

We returned to pick Al up that evening at seven. Although everyone says that neutering is a short, routine procedure, I was anixous to see my dog. To me, anything that requires general anaesthesia is never routine. When we drove up the transport van was already in the parking lot, and a few people were huddled around the lady in the scrubs who was giving post-op instructions. I snuck around to the back of the van looking for Al, only to get admonished to wait until all the instructions were given. But I could hear his whine from under the blanket covering one of the crates.

Al had also received his Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus, and Coronavirus vaccine (they are all packaged together) that day, as well as a heartworm test and microchip implant, for a total of $168. He had been through a lot, and it was hard for me to wait.

Finally they lifted his crate down and we were able to see him. He was a bit dopey and lethargic, but his tail started wagging as soon as we got him out of the crate. That's when Al took the longest pee of his life. He must have received almost a gallon of intravenous fluids, and I can only imagine how happy he was to get onto the grass. He was whiny that evening, and we had to keep telling him to "leave it" when he tried to lick at his incision spot. I'm sure he was in pain, as he had been cut open and glued back together just a few hours ago. I managed to hand feed him two pieces of kibble and he drank a tiny bit of water. I felt horrible when I had to put an Elizabethan collar on Al for the night, but he got back at me for it by banging it into things for hours, keeping us both up.

The next morning we were both glad to get the E-collar off, and I spent all day keeping him from licking the incision with verbal corrections. In the morning he was still very mopey and seemed generally uncomfortable.  But his appetite returned to normal and we spoiled him with homemade treats all afternoon; by the evening he had mostly returned to his usual self.

The surgery was a success and Al's incision is healing well, even with the licking he manages to sneak in from time to time.

If you don't like the idea of your pet traveling with strangers, you can make the drive to Mokena yourself and make an appointment with the National Animal Welfare Society directly. The cost is even less this way, currently at $70 for dogs under 75 pounds. You can also find other low-cost spay and neuter options by searching ASPCAs database by zip code.

Here are some questions (from Premiere Pets) you may want to ask at any clinic:

Does the clinic use a reversible gas anesthesia? It's more expensive, but it's safer.
Are the instruments sterilized after every use? It's more expensive and time-consuming, but it's safer.
Does the veterinarian scrub between surgeries? It takes longer, but it's safer.
Is the dog hooked to a heart monitor? It costs more, but it's safer.
Is the incision closed with layers of sutures? It takes longer, but it's safer.
Is laser surgery available? It costs more but takes less time and reduces post-surgical discomfort.