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Information for the Public

Frequently Asked Questions

Fees: Can my veterinarian charge a fee for providing a copy of my animal’s medical record?

A veterinarian is allowed to recover reasonable costs for producing copies of medical records. Factors that influence the cost include the number of pages, cost of staff time, courier or postage costs and the cost of any other related items. The charge must not obstruct the efficient and timely release of information.

 

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Fees: Does the College regulate fees that veterinarians charge, or can my veterinarian set his own fees?

The setting of fees is not a College policy – it is a business decision.  Each individual veterinary facility in Ontario will determine the fees charged for services provided as part of their business model and in keeping with the Federal Competition Act whereby veterinarians must not conspire to fix fees.  Veterinary facilities are run as small businesses and are not government funded in any way. 

While the College does not set fees, the regulatory framework does consider it misconduct if a veterinarian charges fees that are excessive in relation to what is normally charged.  See Regulation 1093 which states:

17. (1) For the purposes of the Act, professional misconduct includes the following:
11. Charging a fee that is excessive in relation to the amount normally charged for the services performed or the product dispensed or adding a charge that is excessive when recovering any disbursement incurred in the course of providing services.

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Medications: Can I purchase medication for my animal outside of Canada or from an online supplier?

Yes; 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 online supplier before making your purchase to decide whether or not you wish to assume that risk.

The College 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 over the Internet. While its content refers to purchasing drugs for human use over the Internet, some of the information will be useful for you.

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Prescribing: Can veterinarians prescribe cannabis for medical purposes?

No, a veterinarian cannot prescribe cannabis for medical purposes for their animal patients. Under the Cannabis Act, cannabis for medical purposes applies to humans only. Human healthcare practitioners provide an authorization to their patients to be able to access cannabis for medical purposes.

Under the Cannabis Act, drugs with cannabis are a legal pathway for access to cannabis for animals. All phytocannabinoids, the naturally occurring active ingredients in cannabis plants, have been placed on the Prescription Drug List and, therefore, they are subject to the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations as well. This includes cannabidiol (CBD). There are currently no approved CBD drugs for animals, meaning there is no legal pathway to obtain these products for animals in Canada.

The other legal pathway of access to cannabis products for animals are veterinary health products (VHP) containing hemp. Currently, there are hemp products for certain animal species that are available and approved by Health Canada under the Industrial Hemp Regulations (IHR). Veterinary health products are low-risk substances that are used to maintain or promote the health and welfare of animals. The IHR excludes hemp seed derivatives (e.g., hemp seed oil) and products made from those derivatives from the application of the Cannabis Act if they contain less than 10 ppm THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

A veterinarian interested in the use of cannabis in animals needs to stay informed of the rapidly changing environment related to cannabis.

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Medications: When my veterinarian prescribes a drug for my animal, can I ask her to write a prescription instead of purchasing the medication from the veterinary practice?

Yes, you can request a written prescription for a medication and have it dispensed at a pharmacy of your choice. Veterinarians may charge a prescribing fee.

Regulation 1093 outlines a veterinarian’s obligations related to dispensing a medication that is prescribed by another veterinarian. There are some narrowly defined exemptions in Regulation 1093 that allow a veterinarian to dispense to another veterinarian’s patient (individual animal or herd), i.e., if the client cannot reasonably obtain the drug from their veterinarian with whom they have a veterinarian-client-patient relationship, and it is necessary to dispense the drug without the delay that would be associated with returning to the prescribing veterinarian.

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Medications: My veterinarian won't give me medication for my animal without examining him. Why do I have to pay for an examination?

A veterinarian must have recent and sufficient knowledge of a patient to provide a diagnosis and recommend treatment such as prescribing medication. In certain situations, an examination of the animal before prescribing medication may be necessary as, without an exam, the animal may be put at risk of harm.  It is up to the veterinarian’s professional judgement to determine if an exam is necessary.

Veterinarians must meet their professional obligations.  How they charge for services to meet these obligations is up to the individual practice’s business model. 

For more information about the Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship, review What to Expect from your Veterinarian, and the Professional Practice Standard and Guide to the Standard on the Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship.

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Medications: Why can I buy medications (e.g. Advantage) from a pet store but not from a veterinary practice where I am not a client?

Veterinarians’ professional obligations are outlined in the Veterinarians Act and Regulation 1093.  This legislation states that in order for a veterinarian to dispense any drug including those classified as over the counter, a valid Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR) must exist.  That is why veterinary practices cannot sell medications such as Advantage to a non-client.

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Medical Records and Information: I want a copy of my animal’s medical record. Is my veterinarian required to provide me with one?

Yes, veterinarians are required to provide either a copy or a summary of the medical record to a client upon request. The physical copy of the medical record is the property of the practice but the information contained in the record belongs to the client and the client has the right to access the content of their animal’s medical record.  A veterinarian is allowed to recover reasonable costs for producing copies of medical records.

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Complaint: 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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Complaint: 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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VCPR: What role do other members of the veterinary team (e.g. assistants, technicians) play in my animal’s care?

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 are not permitted to diagnose, prognose, prescribe or perform major surgery.

For further information, review the Professional Practice Standard on Delegation.

As the owner of an animal, the veterinarian must inform you if auxiliaries or other veterinarians will be providing some or all of the care your animal will receive.  This is part of the Informed Client Consent process.  For further information, review the Professional Practice Standard on Informed Client Consent.

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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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