Veterinary Clinic Services & Clinic FAQ

The Santa Barbara Humane Society clinic is a non-profit organization that offers low-cost vaccinations, deworming, microchipping and spay/neuter services

Overview of Clinic Services

The Santa Barbara Humane Society clinic is a non-profit organization that offers low-cost vaccinations, deworming, microchipping and spay/neuter services.  An annual membership of $25 per household is required for vaccination and deworming.  All vaccinations are performed by a veterinary technician, who is available to answer questions regarding vaccinations, general puppy socialization, health and behavior, etc.

The Santa Barbara Humane Society does NOT operate a full-service veterinary clinic. Your pet will not receive an exam from a veterinarian, and we do not see pets for medical issues, nail trims, grooming, ear cleanings, or other medical procedures.  We strongly recommend that you establish a relationship with a local veterinarian, and are happy to provide a list of local veterinarians in our community.

If your pet has a medical problem and you cannot afford to take your pet to a full-service veterinarian, you have a few options.

  1. You can call local vets to see if they offer free exams to new clients or accept CARE Credit:
  2. If you live in the South Coast area of Santa Barbara County, you can contact the Diana Basehart Foundation to see if they can provide financial assistance.
  3. If you live in the North County area of Santa Barbara County, you can contact C.A.R.E.4 Paws to see if they can provide financial assistance.

Spay/Neuter surgery is another service provided to the public by the Santa Barbara Humane Society.  All spay/neuter surgeries are performed by a qualified Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM).

Please see our FAQs below to answer basic questions regarding our spay/neuter services.

Frequently Asked Questions About Spay & Neuter Services

Questions About Spaying & Neutering

What is a Spay?

A spay is the common term for the surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus of a female dog or cat to prevent pregnancy and eliminate heat cycles. The technical name for this surgery is ovariohysterectomy often abbreviated as OVH.

What is a Neuter?

Although the surgery for either sex can be called a neuter, most of the time neuter is the term used for the surgical removal of the testicles of a male dog or cat. This is also known as castration.

What is the cost of surgery so much less than at my regular veterinarian's hospital?

The fees owners pay for spays and neuters at the Santa Barbara Humane Society reflect only a fraction of the true cost of surgery. The balance of this cost is paid for by our organization. The Santa Barbara Humane Society is a non-profit organization that relies on donations, boarding fees, membership fees and bequests to provide funds for our clinic as well as to provide care for our adoption dogs and cats. We believe that pet over- population is a significant problem and that un-neutered pets result in the creation of millions of unwanted pets each year. Our low fee clinic exists to hopefully provide an incentive for owners in our community to have their pet spayed and neutered.

Full-service veterinary hospitals have higher costs due to the need to have expensive medical equipment for emergencies and diagnostic procedures for all types of services.  Some veterinary clinics also provide specialty services, which can be costly for private veterinary clinics to maintain. In a full-service veterinary hospital, there is not only the need to be ready to treat your pet in an emergency or to run regular routine diagnostic tests, they must also cover the costs of providing those services to their clients.

Why should I spay or neuter my pet?

Spay/neuter surgery benefits the community by reducing pet overpopulation and leads to fewer unwanted dogs and cats in shelters and on the streets. Between 6 and 8 million dogs and cats enter U.S. shelters every year costing local governments billions of dollars. As many as 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year because there are not enough homes available.

Female dogs and cats that are spayed have a reduced incidence of breast cancer (especially if done before 2 years old), uterine infections (pyometra) and tumors.

Male dogs and cats that are neutered have fewer prostate problems and no testicular cancer.

Spay and neuter surgeries help to prevent unwanted behaviors such as aggressive behavior towards other animals, roaming in search of mates, urine marking in dogs and urine spraying and odor in cats and persistent barking and mounting in dogs.

When should I spay or neuter my pet?

We recommend that pets by spayed or neutered between 4 and 6 months of age, after they have finished their series of puppy vaccinations but before they are sexually mature and capable of producing puppies or kittens. Cats mature at about 6 months old and dogs between 6 to 12 months old depending on their size. Female pets that are spayed or neutered before their first heat have smaller surgical incisions and recover faster from surgery than older pets.

Questions About Appointments

How do I make an appointment?

Call the Santa Barbara Humane Society Clinic Monday–Friday from 10am to 12 noon or 2-4 pm, at (805) 964.4777. Complete contact information and directions are on our Contact page.

Will I have to wait for an appointment?

The wait for a spay or neuter appointment can be 2-6 weeks depending on the sex and size of your pet. Our surgery schedule fills up quickly. For more information about the next appointment call 805-964-4777 from 10am to 12pm or 2pm to 4pm Monday through Friday. If our schedule is filled or the wait is too long, low fee spay and neuter surgeries are also provided by the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society at (805) 688-8224 or C.A.R.E. 4 Paws at (805) 968-2273.

What do I need to consider when making an appointment?

Surgery drop off is at 8:15 am and pick up is between 2:30 and 3:30 pm the same day. Make sure you are available at these times and are available by phone during the day should we need to contact you.

Payment is due at pick up.

No bathing or swimming is permitted for 14 days after surgery, so you may want to bathe your pet a day or two before surgery if possible.

Check your pet for fleas and apply flea medication a few days before surgery is needed (topical medications should be applied AFTER bathing). We do not want fleas jumping into the sterile surgery area on your pet.

What is the cost to spay or neuter my pet?

Please see our Fee Schedule.

Questions About Pets in Heat

What does it mean when a dog is "in heat"?

“Heat” is defined as the period of time when a female dog will stand and allow breeding. The female usually ovulates during this time so if she mates with a male, pregnancy is highly likely. Female dogs will not breed if they are not in heat.

Female dogs typically have their first heat between 6 and 9 months of age.

There are two main phases to the heat cycle of dogs:

  • Proestrus: bloody vaginal discharge, swollen vulva; males will be attracted to a female but she will not allow breeding yet. Lasts an average of 9 days (6-11 days is normal).
  • Estrus: less discharge which may be pink or straw colored, females will allow breeding. Lasts 5-9 days.

This cycle repeats every 6 to 7 months (normal can be 5 to 11 months a part); so most dogs have 2 heats per year.

Will you spay a dog in heat?

No. During the heat cycle the uterus is larger and there is more potential for bleeding during surgery, greatly increasing the risk of complications. Spay surgery should be scheduled for 8 weeks after the first day of vaginal discharge is noted.

What do I do if my dog comes into heat after I have made an appointment?

Please call the clinic so we can reschedule the surgery for 8 weeks after the first day vaginal discharge was noted. Keep a very close eye on her to prevent her getting pregnant as male dogs will be attracted to her and may come into your yard to mate or she may try to escape to find a male.

What does it mean when a cat is "in heat"

“Heat” is defined as the period when a female cat will stand and allow breeding with a male. Cats ovulate during breeding making pregnancy highly likely. Females will not allow breeding if they are not in heat. First heat usually starts at 6-9 months of age (5 to 12 months can be normal).

A cat’s heat cycles are seasonal, traditionally while daylight is getting longer from Jan/Feb to Sept/Oct. Indoor cats exposed to more than 10 hours of light per day may cycle all year long.

Heat cycles in cats last about 7 days. The cat will often roll, yowl as if in pain and try to get outside. If the cat is bred, she will ovulate and most likely become pregnant. If the cat is not bred, the heat will return in 3 to 16 days and the cat will continue to come in and out of heat until she is bred, or is spayed or stops cycling for a brief period in the winter.

Questions About Surgery

Will you spay a cat in heat?

Yes, since cats have many heat cycles during the year it is much more difficult to schedule surgery when they are not in heat once they are old enough to start cycling. The uterus is larger and the incision in the abdomen may need to be a bit bigger than normal and the surgery takes a bit more time so there is an additional fee added to the normal surgery fee for cats in heat.

Will you spay a dog or cat that is pregnant?

Dogs and cats are pregnant for approximately 63-65 days. Spay surgery for CATS in the first half of the pregnancy is usually not a problem, however there is an increased risk of complications and extra charges typically apply.

Because of the increase in hormones and blood flow to the uterus during heat cycles and pregnancy in dogs, surgery presents a much greater risk of complications and we recommend if you elect to terminate the pregnancy, the surgery by performed by your full-service veterinarian.

If you elect to allow your pet to have the litter, the female can be spayed as soon as the puppies or kittens are weaned (~8 weeks old) and milk is dried up (approximately 2 weeks after the puppies/kittens stop nursing).

Do dogs and cats get fat because of spay and neuter surgery?

No, weight gain is the result of too much food or too little exercise, not because of surgery.

Should my female dog or cat have a first heat before being spayed?

This is a discussion you should have with your full-service veterinarian. Because animals in heat are likely to become pregnant, we recommend spaying before the first heat cycle (ideally between 4-6 months of age). Dogs that are spayed before the first heat cycle typically recover faster and have less post-operative pain and complications. Females spayed before their first heat have a 95% decreased chance of having breast cancer.  Heat periods are also often messy and difficult for owners.

Should my dog or cat have at least one litter before being spayed?

There is no medical benefit to having a litter before surgery. Even one litter adds to pet over-population creating more dogs and cats that need homes and may end up in shelters.

Will spaying or neutering change my dog or cat’s behavior?

Overall an animal’s personality is unaffected. Playfulness, friendliness and socialization with people are not changed. Fifty percent (50%) or more of dogs and cats will have a decrease in these unwanted behaviors after surgery:

  • A decreased interest in roaming
  • Aggressive behavior toward other males
  • Urine marking and mounting behaviors
Is the surgery safe? What are the potential complications?

Spay and neuter surgery requires general anesthetic, which always comes with some risk. We may decline to do surgery on older animals or those with health concerns that would increase the risk of anesthetic complications. For these pets we would advise surgery be performed at a full service veterinary clinic where additional monitoring and treatment equipment is available. Young, healthy animals seldom have complications. For the past several years, we have performed over 1,000 surgeries per year.  There may be some irritation or swelling at the incision site. Other more serious complication are rare; however it is important for you to watch your pet following surgery and speak with your veterinarian if you see any significant decrease in energy or interest in food or water.

What do I do if my pet has a problem after surgery?

We will be happy to see your pet for any post-surgery problems during normal clinic hours Monday-Friday from 2-4pm. Please call for an appointment at 805-964-4777. After hours or on weekends, contact your regular veterinarian, VCA CARE Emergency Pet Hospital at 805-899-2273, or Advanced Veterinary Specialists (AVS) Emergency Hospital at 805-729-4460.

How do I prepare for surgery?

Give no food after MIDNIGHT the night before and nothing to eat on the morning of surgery. Water is OK at all times. Bring your dog on a leash and your cat in a carrier to the clinic at 8:15 the morning of surgery.

How do I care for my dog after surgery?

No running, jumping or rough play for 14 days after surgery. Leash walks are OK. No bathing or swimming for 14 days after surgery.

If you have an active pet, we strongly recommend calling your full-service veterinarian for sedatives to use after surgery. Large, male dogs in particular can develop painful swelling of the scrotum after surgery if you all them to become too active. Crate rest is advised.

Do not allow your pet to lick at the incision. Elizabethan collars are provided with the cost of surgery and MUST be worn by the pet for the full 14 days to prevent licking. No skin sutures are used and if the pet licks excessively the incision may open.

If your pet needs a replacement E-collar, you can pick one up during clinic hours for $5.

Give small amounts of food and water initially. Just like humans, some pets can feel nauseous after anesthesia.

Start pain medication as soon as you get home unless otherwise directed.

Do not give any additional pain medications for humans (such as aspirin, Tylenol or ibuprofen) or any additional pain medications for dogs without consulting a veterinarian. Many human medications or combinations for medications can cause serious or even fatal complications in dogs.

How do I care for my cat after surgery?

Keep your female cat indoors for 14 days and your male cat indoors for 3 days after surgery.

No jumping or rough play for 10 days for females, and 1-2 days for males.

Offer food and water as soon as you get home.

Watch for excessive licking of the incision. An Elizabethan collar is provided with the cost of surgery and should be worn for 10-14 days by females and at least 3 days for male cats.

Do not give any additional pain medications for humans (such as aspirin, Tylenol or ibuprofen) or any additional pain medications for cats without consulting a veterinarian. Many human medications or combinations of medications can cause serious or even fatal complications in cats.

What problems should I watch out for after surgery?

Red, irritated or open incisions (usually due to the pet licking the incision) should be checked as soon as possible.

Swelling of a male dog’s scrotum is usually due to excessive post-operative activity. You will likely need to confine your dog to a crate and obtain sedatives from your full-service veterinarian. Start applying a cold compress to the scrotal area for 10 minutes at a time, 3-4 times a day until the swelling goes down.

Persistent vomiting or diarrhea should be checked out by your veterinarian. The first day after surgery some pets may have nausea or diarrhea due to stress but this usually resolves within 24 hours.

Painful or extremely lethargic pets should be examined as soon as possible.

Pets with pale gums and extreme lethargy should be examined as soon as possible. Large breed dogs with a distended abdomen, retching and lethargy should be considered a medical emergency as these signs may indicate gastric bloat which can be fatal without immediate treatment.

Does Santa Barbara County law require that my dog or cat be spayed or neutered?

Yes, with exceptions. The Santa Barbara County Responsible Pet Owner Ordinance was passed in January of 2010.

Common Questions About Vaccinations

How are vaccinations done?

All vaccinations given at the Santa Barbara Humane Society are given by a veterinary technician. While a veterinarian is always on the premises during our vaccination clinic, your pet will NOT receive an examination or treatment for any medical problems. We strongly recommend establishing a relationship with a local veterinarian for health check-ups and questions regarding medical problems. Please inform our technician if your pet will require a muzzle for vaccinations. All bites are promptly reported to Animal Control.

What about kitten vaccinations?

Kittens should receive the first FVRCP vaccine (also called feline distemper, feline respiratory vaccine or 3 in 1 vaccine) at 6-8 weeks old. Booster vaccines should be given every 3-4 weeks until the kitten is 14-16 weeks old. The last vaccine is good for one year. The total number of booster vaccines may vary depending on how old the kitten is when it receives the first shot, but the kitten does need a minimum of two vaccines with the last vaccine at 16 weeks or older.

Rabies vaccine may be given to kittens 12 weeks (3 months) of age or older.

Kittens and cats that go outside should be vaccinated for Feline Leukemia (FeLV) at 9 weeks of age or older and a follow up booster given in 3-4 weeks, then one year later. They should first have a blood test before vaccinating to be sure they do not already carry the virus.

How are puppy vaccinations done?

Puppies should receive the first DHPP vaccine (also called distemper/parvo or 4 in 1 vaccine) at 6-8 weeks old. Booster vaccines should be given every 3-4 weeks until the puppy is 14-16 weeks old. The last vaccine is good for one year. The total number of booster vaccines may vary depending on how old the puppy is when it receives the first shot, but the puppy does need a minimum of two vaccines with the last vaccine at 14 weeks or older.

The law requires that all dogs over the age of four months must be vaccinated against Rabies. A dog license must then be purchased within 30 days of receiving the rabies vaccine. The first time a rabies vaccine is given it is good for 1 year. Subsequent vaccinations are good for 3 years, as long as proof of a prior rabies vaccination is provided.

Dogs who are boarded or who are frequently around other dogs should also be vaccinated for Bordetella (kennel cough). Intranasal Bordetella can be given to puppies 6 weeks or older. The vaccine is good for one year, but if the dog is boarded frequently, vaccination every 6 months may be ideal.

The Santa Barbara Humane Society does not offer vaccinations for Leptospirosis, Lyme disease, Canine Influenza or Rattlesnake. These vaccinations should be discussed with your full-service veterinarian and your dog’s lifestyle and risk of exposure evaluated.

What side effects can be seen from vaccines?

Many dogs (especially small breeds) and cats will have a mild fever and may be a little quiet and have a decreased appetite for one day after vaccination. If a pet has multiple vaccines given at one time, the likelihood of a reaction may increase. More severe reactions are uncommon and you should watch for:

  • Facial swelling or hives
  • Lethargy if severe or lasting more than one day
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite for more than one day
  • Severe weakness, collapse or shock – usually occurs within hours of vaccination
What do I do if my dog or cat is having a reaction to a vaccine?

Call the Santa Barbara Humane Society clinic at 964-4777 between 10 and 4 pm. If outside these hours, contact your regular veterinarian, VCA CARE Emergency Pet Hospital at 805-899-2273, or Advanced Veterinary Specialists (AVS) Emergency Hospital at 805-729-4460.

Miscellaneous Questions

Do you test for heartworm or provide preventative medication?

No, please see your family veterinarian for recommendations on testing and preventative medication for your pet, especially if you travel with your pet. Heartworm has not been common in the Santa Barbara area in the past, but the number of local dogs infected is slowly increasing.

Do you test for worms or provide worming medication?

We provide deworming for roundworms and hookworms for puppies and kittens 6 months of age and younger for $5. Deworming multiple times, 2 to 4 weeks apart is recommended.

Please see your family veterinarian for fecal (stool) testing for intestinal worms. The dewormer provided will NOT deworm for Tapeworms (commonly caused by fleas) or other intestinal parasites such as coccidia or giardia.  People can get intestinal worms from their pets so regular deworming, especially of young animals is very important. Over-the-counter medications from pet stores are rarely effective.

Do you sell flea medication?

Yes, Advantix for dogs and Advantage for cats arc available for sale in the shelter office.  We also sell Bayer Seresto Collars (Insert Hotlink?) for dogs and cats.

My puppy has not received all his vaccinations yet; should I keep him isolated at home until he finishes all the puppy shots?

No, but use common sense and be cautious about taking your puppy to areas where lots of other dogs have left their stools since the Parvo and Distemper viruses are picked up when the puppy is exposed to infected stool. Because the first 3 months of a puppy’s life are when sociability outweighs fear, this is the most important window of opportunity for puppies to adapt to new people, animals and experiences. Isolating a puppy away from other dogs and new people can lead to a fearful, poorly socialized adult dog. Take your puppy outside on a leash for walks around your neighborhood, car rides and puppy classes with other puppies that have all had at least one vaccination and de-worming. Do not take your pup to the beach or dog park where lots of dogs have been until 5-7 days after the final DHPP vaccination in the puppy vaccine series has been given. Socializing with other adult dogs that are fully vaccinated is safe. Socializing with other puppies in a puppy class is fine but avoid play dates with other puppies outside of class until the vaccine series is finished.

Can I take my puppy to puppy classes if he has not finished all of his puppy vaccinations?

Yes, in most cases it is safe to take your puppy to puppy classes after the first vaccination and de-worming, but check with the class instructor to be sure of the vaccine requirements for that class.

What should I do in addition to vaccinations to keep my pet healthy?

The most important thing you can do for your pet to maintain good health is to see your family veterinarian at least once a year for a physical examination. This is especially important for new puppies and kittens and for pets over 7 years old. Vaccinations at the Santa Barbara Humane Society do not include a physical examination. Since our pets cannot speak to us, a careful physical examination can be a very important way to uncover existing medical problems before they become more serious. During a yearly appointment with your family veterinarian you will also have an opportunity to discuss diet, exercise, flea control, intestinal deworming and behavior problems with your veterinarian.

Weigh your pet several times a year. Changes in body weight, especially unexpected weight loss can be an early indication of health problems.

Feed high quality pet food. Dogs prefer routine with the same food at the same time each day. Cats may prefer a variety of flavors and studies have shown that canned foods are more beneficial than dry foods for cats (cats are carnivores and as primarily meat eaters, grain based dry foods may be poorly digested and can lead to weight gain).

Use flea control regularly for all pets in the household as fleas are present in Santa Barbara all year round. Once you notice fleas on your pet, you have 100 times that many eggs and larvae in your environment and it will take several months to get the flea population under control. Flea baths, sprays, powders and dips are typically ineffective.

About Microchipping

How can I get my pet microchipped?

The Santa Barbara Humane Society offers microchipping for your pet through ResQChip ( A microchip implant is an identifying integrated circuit placed under the skin of the pet. The chip, about the size of a large grain of rice, uses passive RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology to transmit a unique number that can be picked up by a scanner. The microchip is NOT a GPS device, however should your pet become lost and picked-up by an animal control officer or scanned at a local veterinary clinic, you will be contacted by the microchip company letting you know your pet has been located.

The Santa Barbara Humane Society will register all pets microchipped at our clinic. This typically takes 2-3 weeks. Once your pet has been registered, you should receive an email from PetLink at the email address you provided us. Your email address will service as your username. Please use sbhumane as your initial password, then reset your password. Once you are logged on, you should see all of the registration information you provided us regarding your pet. You can change any of the information, upload a picture, etc. at any time by logging onto the website. There are no annual service charges to maintain this information.

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