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Information for the Public

Frequently Asked Questions

Can veterinarians prescribe medical marijuana?

As per the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (federal government legislation), veterinarians are not allowed to prescribe medical marijuana to their patients.

Veterinarians are not prohibited from prescribing cannabidiol (CBD) oil or capsules, and hemp (e.g., hemp oil, hemp seed oil). However, there is currently little evidence on the use of these products for animals.

If a veterinarian prescribes CBD oil, it must be purchased in Canada from a licensed dealer. CBD is a Schedule II drug in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and, therefore, veterinarians must maintain a controlled drug log.

Clients can sometimes find products containing active ingredients found in the cannabis plant without a prescription and will ask veterinarians about using them on their animals.  The decision to advise clients about the use in animals of marijuana or related products will be based on the veterinarian’s professional judgment. Factors to consider in making recommendations about these products and discussing their use with clients are:

  1. Is there enough information in the literature about the use and benefits of marijuana and related products in animals for specific diseases?
  2. What are considered safe doses in animals?
  3. What are the risks of use?
  4. What quality control/safety measures are in place for the production of these products? Do they contain the label claimed components and strengths? Are they effective?
  5. Is it legal to be in possession of these products in Canada? In Ontario? The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act has very strict regulations. Advising clients to use illegal substances for their animals would also be considered Professional Misconduct (see Regulation 1093 (https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/901093) section 17(1) ss 45 “45. Conduct unbecoming a veterinarian.”).

For more information, contact Health Canada (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/contact/index-eng.php#a1).

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Do I have the right to purchase medication from an internet pharmacy rather than my veterinarian?

Yes, you can request a written or oral prescription for a medication and can use that prescription as you wish. However, you should be aware that products obtained outside of Canada are not subject to the same regulated approval process that drugs approved by Health Canada/Veterinary Drugs Directorate. You should research the Internet supplier before making your purchase to decide whether or not you wish to assume that risk.

The CVO regulates the practice of veterinary medicine in Ontario, including the issuance of prescriptions and the dispensing of drugs, but the regulation of pharmacies – in Ontario or elsewhere – is not within the jurisdiction of the College or its licensed veterinarians.

See Health Canada's web page on Buying Drugs on the Internet. While its content refers to purchasing drugs for human use on the Internet, some of the information will be useful for you.

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It seems like most of my dog's examination is conducted by the technician, shouldn't the veterinarian do the entire exam?

The College supports and encourages the appropriate delegation of professional services to suitably trained auxiliaries. Such delegation permits veterinary care to be provided promptly, efficiently and effectively.

Veterinarians continue to be accountable for the professional services they have delegated. According to Council policy, auxiliaries in companion animal practice are not permitted to diagnose, prognose, prescribe or perform major surgery.

For further information, review The General Principles of Delegation.

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I would like to file a complaint about my veterinarian. How do I do this?

In governing the practice of veterinary medicine, the College is dedicated to protecting the public interest. One of the College's many responsibilities is to oversee the professional conduct of Ontario veterinarians. Through its complaints committee, the College investigates complaints about veterinarians related to the practice of veterinary medicine.

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How does the complaints process start?

In order for the College to review and investigate complaints from the public, the complaint must be received from the complainant by the College in writing. The statement of complaint should clearly and precisely set out the following information:

  • the name(s) of the veterinarian(s) being complained about
  • the name of the veterinary facility
  • a description of the problem
  • an outline of the concerns or issues for the committee to consider
  • the dates on which the events occurred
  • the name and contact information of anyone else who may be able to provide further information
  • copies of invoices or other documentation that may aid the committee in its review of the issues
  • the complainant's full name and mailing address

Click here to learn more about the Complaints Process.

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My veterinarian offers dentistry services, does he need to be a specialist to do so?

No, a veterinarian with the appropriate skills and training may offer dentistry to his/her clients. That veterinarian, however, cannot say he/she is a specialist in dentistry. In fact a veterinarian with a complicated dental case may suggest referral to another veterinarian with a recognized specialty in dentistry.

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My veterinarian won't give me medication for my cat without examining him. I know what's wrong with my cat as he had the same symptoms a couple years ago. Why do I have to pay for a costly examination?

When a veterinarian recommends and/or provides treatment for an animal, a valid Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR) must exist. The College's Position Statement on the VCPR requires a valid VCPR for the dispensing of ANY treatment product. A veterinarian must have sufficient knowledge of the animal, including its health status, immunization history, nutrition, management, environment and hygiene, to provide a diagnosis and recommend treatment.

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What qualifies a veterinarian to call him or herself a specialist?

A veterinarian in Ontario cannot use the term specialist unless he or she is Board-certified in a specialty recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).  The term specialist is only permitted to be used by specialists who are certified by a recognized veterinary specialty organization approved by the AVMA.  Examples of specialty designations include American College of Veterinary Surgeons – small animal, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine – large animal, and American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists.  There are currently just under 300 veterinary specialist practising in Ontario.

Different than a specialty designation, a veterinarian who has a practice focus in a specific area may communicate this focus by stating they have

  • an interest in ...
  • additional education in ...
  • a specific focus on ...

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