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Information for Licensed Members

Practice Advice

If you have a question related to the regulations, policy and expectations associated with the practice of veterinary medicine, please contact the College. The practice advisory service offered by the College is free and confidential.

Practice Advisory Service
1-800-424-2856 / 519-824-5600 x2401 or practiceadvice@cvo.org

Your feedback is important! If you have recently contacted the Practice Advice Service, the College wants to hear from you. Please complete the Practice Advice Service Satisfaction Survey regarding your most recent experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are a few of the questions, and answers, that the College frequently receives through its practice advisory service. If you have other questions, please feel free to contact the College’s practice advisor.

Animal Abuse or Neglect: If a veterinarian suspects that an animal is being abused or neglected. What are his/her obligations?

According to the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, a veterinarian is obligated to report suspected animal abuse or neglect. Specifically, the Act states that “every veterinarian who has reasonable grounds to believe that an animal has been or is being abused or neglected shall report his or her belief to an inspector or an agent of the Society.” (OSPCA Act, RSO 1990, c. O.36, s 11.3.)

Reporting suspected animal abuse or neglect is a permitted exemption from client confidentiality addressed in Section 17 of Ontario Regulation 1093 of the Veterinarians Act. It is not professional misconduct to reveal information concerning a client when reporting suspected animal abuse or neglect, because a veterinarian is required to do so by law.  This is addressed in section 17 of Ontario Regulation 1093. (RRO 1990, Reg. 1093, s 17. (1) 6. ii.)

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Animal Ownership: Two owners are listed in my patient’s file. If one owner requests that the other owner be removed from the file, what should a veterinarian do?

In order to remove an owner from a patient’s file, consent must be obtained from the individual whose name is being removed from the file. Alternatively legal direction, such as a court order, may be provided to allow you to remove an owner from the file. The change to the medical record must then be made in such a way that original content is maintained.

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Business and Management Practices: Can I add an additional charge on the fees of an itinerant veterinarian?

The College regulations prohibit adding a charge to a disbursement or cost. A client may be billed for the services of an itinerant veterinarian who provides a service to a client at the primary veterinarian's clinic.  For example, if an external surgeon or ultrasonographer performs a service in your facility for your client, but is not an employee of the practice, the fee of the itinerant veterinarian cannot be marked up. The practice may charge reasonable fees associated with coordinating appointments, providing the facility space, staff and some equipment; however, when a client is charged for these items, they should appear as separate invoice items so the client is aware of the individual charges. (RRO 1990, Reg. 1093, s 17. (1) 17.) 

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Dispensing: Can a veterinarian dispense a controlled substance to the client of a veterinarian from a neighbouring clinic?

While it would seem the neighbourly thing to do, the College regulations only allow a member to dispense controlled substances to animals that are under his/her direct care. Clients do have the option of having the prescription filled by a pharmacist. (RRO 1990, Reg. 1093, s 28. (6))

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Dispensing: If a client has a prescription from a veterinarian in another city, am I able to fill it on behalf of the veterinarian?

Yes, a veterinarian can fill the prescription of another veterinarian under the following
conditions outlined in section 33 (1.1) of Ontario Regulation 1093 of the Veterinarians Act:

  1. it is not reasonably possible for the client to obtain the drug from the prescribing member or a pharmacy;
  2. it is necessary in the interests of the animal to administer or dispense the drug without the delay that would be associated with returning to the prescribing member;
  3. the member makes a reasonable effort to discuss the matter with the prescribing member;
  4. the member conducts a sufficient assessment of the animal’s circumstances, which may not require a physical examination in every case, to ascertain that it is unlikely that there has been a material change in the circumstances since the prescription was given;
  5. the quantity of the drug dispensed is no more than would reasonably enable the client to return to the prescribing member for future prescriptions or quantities of the drug; and
  6. the member makes a written record of the transaction as otherwise required by this Regulation.

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Management and Disposal of Controlled Drugs: When we record entries in our controlled drug log, we list the client’s ID number. The revision to Regulation 1093 states the “name and address of the client” should be entered. Do we need to start writing out the client’s full address in our log now?

This requirement is not new. When an entry is made into the controlled substance log, the name and address of the client are recorded. This helps ensure controlled drug administration and dispensing can be traced if any concerns were to arise. Listing the client’s name and his/her unique hospital number is also acceptable if the hospital number links to the section of the patient medical record showing the client’s address.

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Mandatory Reporting: What diseases and hazards am I required to report under federal and provincial law?

The mandatory reporting obligations of veterinarians are described in the Legislative Overview: Mandatory Reporting.

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Medical Records and Information: A new client booked an appointment at our clinic. When we called the client’s previous clinic for a copy of the patient’s record, we were told there was a fee. The client does not wish to pay this cost. Are colleagues allowed to charge each other for copies of records? We were under the impression that veterinarians are obligated to provide copies of medical records to colleagues.

Veterinarians are allowed to charge a reasonable fee to recover the cost of making a copy of a patient’s medical record. Materials, staff time, and courier/postage fees are examples of these costs. How that fee is dealt with will be up to the parties involved. In a situation where the client or veterinarian has refused to pay for a complete copy of a record, a veterinarian is still obligated to provide relevant medical record information to a colleague. This information can be given verbally or as a written summary. The best interest of the patient and their continuity of care necessitate the timely and accurate transfer of medical information between colleagues. Patient information or a copy of the patient record should be transferred within two business days (or sooner) when a request for the information is made.

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Ownership: How can a veterinarian avoid potential ownership challenges and ensure that ownership is clear in the medical records documentation?

The name, address, and contact information of the owner(s) should be documented.
Contact information should be updated on a regular basis.
In situations with multiple owners, each owner should be recorded (name, address, and contact information). A veterinarian should take care to ensure that his or her medical record files are clear with respect to who is and who is not an owner. An agent is a person who has received the authority to act on behalf of the owner and whose decisions bind the owner as though he or she were themselves making the decisions. Authorized agents of the owner(s) should also be clearly documented, including their contact details. A veterinarian should also document what kinds of decisions the agent has been authorized to make, both medical and financial, by the owner. Simply adding a name under “spouse” “other” or even “emergency contact” may cause confusion. It is also prudent to clarify whether an individual is an emergency contact for a specified time period, and whether an emergency contact is also an authorized agent.

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Ownership: If there is more than one owner of an animal on a file, does a veterinarian need consent from all owners prior to providing care?

No, unless a veterinarian has a reason to suspect that there may be disagreement between the two individuals listed as owners on the file.

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Ownership: There are two names on a file as owners and person A wants the veterinarian to remove person B’s name off the file and person B does not consent. What should the veterinarian do?

A veterinarian cannot make this decision; it is a property matter between the two individuals involved. A veterinarian should not remove the name of an owner on a file unless he or she has received consent from the person in question. In situations where an ownership is persistently disputed, clients should be encouraged to resolve the ownership issue between themselves, which may involve the civil court system.

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Ownership: When meeting a new client, is it appropriate to accept that there is no formal ownership documentation in cases of informal transfer of ownership (e.g. an animal is given to a person by a friend/family member)?

Yes. Veterinarians are not typically expected to establish definitive ownership of animals that are presented to them for veterinary care. However, where a veterinarian has reason to suspect that the person presenting an animal may not be the lawful owner, he or she should refer to the guidelines laid out in the Policy Statement: Managing Questions of Ownership and Ownership Disputes of Companion Animals.

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Ownership: When ownership of an animal changes and the new owner requests medical records that were created at the time that the animal was owned by the previous owner, is consent from the previous owner required?

Yes, the medical record information belongs to the owner and the previous owner’s consent must be obtained before that information can be provided to the new owner.

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Ownership: Where ownership of an animal is not clear, should a veterinarian decline treatment?

Where a veterinarian believes that ownership of an animal is unclear or where there is a dispute over ownership, he or she can decline treatment until evidence of ownership is presented (which may include a signed statement from the individual stating that he or she is the sole owner), unless the veterinarian determines that there is an emergency and treatment is necessary to prevent an animal’s suffering.

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Prescribing: 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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Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship: Are veterinarians allowed to sell therapeutic diets to non-clients?

A valid Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR) must exist before any treatment product, whether prescription or not, is dispensed. References for this are found in Regulation 1093 and the Professional Practice Standard on the VCPR. Having said that, food is exempted from the definition of “drug” in the Regulations so technically, a veterinarian can sell therapeutic diets without a VCPR.
Before selling therapeutic diets to non-clients, assess the potential risks to this group of animals. Therapeutic diets used in the treatment of specific disease conditions that are fed to an animal without that particular condition can potentially put that animal’s health at risk. For these situations, it would be best to either call the regular clinic for verification and/or discuss further with the drop-in client before selling that product. For other therapeutic diets, there is a low risk in terms of selling to someone without a VCPR.

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