Frequently Asked Questions
After Hours Care: When the veterinary clinic I take my animals to closes for the day, I am expected to drive to an emergency clinic if my animal is sick/injured. Why isn’t my veterinarian required to be available after hours to handle their patients’ emergencies?
With the formation of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) a veterinarian assumes a variety of professional responsibilities including providing reasonably prompt services for their clients and patients outside of regular practice hours if the services are medically necessary for animals that they have recently treated or treat regularly.
As it is not reasonable to expect veterinarians to be available to all of their clients all of the time, the College’s After-Hours Care policy outlines options for the delivery of after-hours care services. These services may be provided through “on-call” services provided by the veterinarian or another local veterinarian or by referral to a facility that provides 24/7 services, an emergency clinic, or to a telemedicine service. Practices may use one or a combination of these options. Click here to see the College’s Policy Statement on After-Hours Care Services.
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Fees: Does the College regulate fees that veterinarians charge, or can my veterinarian set their own fees?
The College does not set a fee structure for veterinary medicine. Veterinary facilities are run as small businesses and are not government funded in any way. 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.
While the College does not set fees, the regulatory framework does consider it professional 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.
Questions regarding fees can be discussed with your veterinarian directly. For the College to investigate concerns about excessive fees being charged, a complaint can be submitted to the College by contacting the Investigations and Hearings program. Click here for more information.
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Medications & Prescribing: Can I pick up my animal’s prescription at a veterinary clinic closer to my house instead of the one I take my animals to?
In Ontario, veterinary facilities are not like human pharmacies that only dispense medications. There are some narrowly defined exemptions in Regulation 1093 that allow for a veterinarian to dispense to another veterinarian’s patient based on that veterinarian’s prescription. Even when these exemption criteria are met, a veterinarian is not obligated to fill a prescription written by another veterinarian. Convenience to the client is not one of the listed criteria. For more information, please refer to the College’s Professional Practice Standard: Dispensing a Drug.
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Medications & Prescribing: Can a veterinarian in Ontario provide CBD oil for my pet?
Under the Cannabis Act and Regulations, veterinarians are permitted to prescribe and dispense Health Canada approved medications with cannabis or CBD (cannabidiol); however, there are currently no approved medications with cannabis or CBD to treat animals in Canada. A veterinarian may recommend and sell veterinary health products with hemp that are approved through Health Canada’s Notification Program. A veterinarian may advise their client on the use of legally available recreational cannabis for their pet if they are knowledgeable about the legal framework and have the appropriate education and training on its use in animals. They will determine if it is appropriate for the pet.
It is important for pet owners to be aware that there are many cannabis-derived products being marketed for animals that are unregulated by Health Canada. If you wonder if a cannabis product may be a treatment that would help your pet, it is important to talk to your veterinarian.
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Medications & Prescribing: When my veterinarian prescribes a drug for my animal, can I ask them to write a prescription instead of purchasing the medication from the veterinary practice?
Yes, once a veterinarian has determined that a drug is warranted for a patient, a client can choose to have the medication dispensed from the veterinary facility or request that a written prescription be provided to be filled at a pharmacy of the client’s choice.
If a client requests a written prescription, a veterinarian is obligated to provide it as per Regulation 1093 section 26. Veterinarians may charge a fee for providing the written prescription. Once a client is provided with a prescription then it is left to them to decide where they will have the prescription filled. For veterinary drugs, not all pharmacies will have them in stock for dispensing.
Products obtained outside of Canada are not subject to the same regulated approval process as drugs approved by Health Canada. You should research the online supplier before making your purchase to decide whether 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 by licensed veterinarians, but the regulation of pharmacies – in Ontario or elsewhere – is not within the jurisdiction of the College. The integrity of the drug is the responsibility of the dispensing pharmacy, and they are required to follow the pharmacy regulations in their jurisdiction.
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 may be useful for you.
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Medications & Prescribing: My veterinarian won't give me medication for my animal without an exam. Why do I have to pay for an examination?
Ontario Regulation 1093 requires that a veterinarian must have a veterinarian-client-patient relationship and have recent and sufficient knowledge of the animal to recommend and provide treatment, including medications. For each animal, a veterinarian determines if they have recent and sufficient knowledge and may need to take a history from the client and perform a physical examination. The veterinarian uses their professional judgment to determine the information they require to prescribe or dispense a medication and their recommendations should be based on their assessment of the individual patient and their risk factors, including when the last physical examination occurred.
As part of the informed client consent process, a veterinarian will review their recommendations, any appropriate alternate treatment options and the risks, benefits and potential side effects of each with a client. The decision to dispense a medication is up to the veterinarian. The client provides their consent to accept the veterinarian’s recommendations or not. However, a veterinarian is not obligated to proceed with a treatment a client requests if they believe it is not appropriate for the animal.
It is a business decision on the part of the veterinary practice what fees to charge for services provided. Each individual veterinary facility in Ontario will determine the fees charged for services provided as part of their business model.
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Medications & Prescribing: Why can I buy products (e.g. Advantage) from a pet store but not from a veterinary practice where I am not a client?
A veterinarian is required to have a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) with a client before selling them a non-drug veterinary product. A non-drug veterinary product is a substance that is intended for use in the maintenance or promotion of the health of an animal(s) (e.g. pesticides, parasiticides, notified veterinary health products, etc.) that does not fall under the definition of a drug nor retail items available for sale in the public domain. Unlike the requirements for prescribing and dispensing a drug, the requirement for recent or sufficient knowledge is not always necessary when selling a non-drug veterinary product. Instead, veterinarians are expected to engage with their clients to determine the appropriateness and suitability of a non-drug veterinary product for an animal(s) prior to sale.
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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, a veterinarian is required to provide a copy of the requested components of the medical record to a client upon request. This includes a request for a copy of the complete medical record. The physical copy of the medical record is the property of the veterinary clinic, 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 (for example costs of materials, staff time, courier/postage fees etc.). The charge must not obstruct the efficient and timely release of information. Clients should be informed of this fee and made aware that payment is not a pre-requisite for providing the copy of the record in a timely manner.
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Concerns about a Veterinarian’s Conduct: I have concerns about something my veterinarian did and wonder if they were following the rules or standards. How can I find out?
The College does not set clinical guidelines for veterinarians or provide clinical advice. The College’s practice advisory service is available to anyone seeking information related to the regulations, policy and expectations associated with the practice of veterinary medicine and assists the public with their understanding of the professional obligations of veterinarians licensed in Ontario.
It is important to keep in mind that the practice advisory service does not offer legal advice, or a legal opinion, and the Practice Advisors do not provide veterinary medical advice or a medical opinion.
For the College to investigate a concern about a veterinarian, a complaint can be submitted to the Investigations and Hearings program at the College. For more information, click here.
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VCPR: I received a letter from my veterinarian notifying me that my veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) was being terminated and I am not a client anymore. Can they do that?
Yes. In certain situations, a veterinarian may choose to discontinue a VCPR, despite attempts to address concerns or problems. In the interests of optimal animal care and treatment, discontinuing the VCPR may be the most productive option for both a client and a veterinarian to address on-going and unresolved issues.
Reasons why a veterinarian may discontinue a VCPR can include:
- a client is continually not adhering to recommended treatment plans, resulting in potential risks to the welfare of the animal;
- a difference in philosophy as to the approach taken for diagnosing and treating animals;
- verbal abuse and/or threatening behaviour of a client towards the veterinarian and/or hospital staff;
- a client making unreasonable demands for unnecessary medications and services, or for illegal or unethical actions (e.g. asking the veterinarian to alter a medical record);
- a client continually deferring payment of fees owed for services rendered
When a veterinarian discontinues the VCPR, the client is to be provided with notice of when the VCPR will be discontinued and how a new veterinarian or the client can obtain the animal’s medical records. Once the VCPR has been discontinued, the veterinarian has no further professional obligations toward the animal and client.
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Public Register: I am looking for a veterinarian. Can you recommend one?
While the College does not recommend or refer the public to specific veterinarians, we are the regulator for the practice of veterinary medicine in Ontario and keep a Public Register, or list, of all licensed veterinarians in the province. Through searching the Public Register, you can find information about veterinarians including their name, practice address, licence status, contact information, languages spoken, and species served. As well, their qualifications and areas of specialty are noted. The Public Register also includes information about any conditions on a licensed veterinarian's registration. Information about findings of professional misconduct is also specified.
This list can be easily found on our website. Click on Find a Veterinarian and follow these steps:
- There will be 3 options displayed: veterinarian, veterinary practices, professional corporations. You will want to select “veterinarian”
- Under “Status”, select ‘Active’ from the drop-down menu
- Looking for a veterinarian in a specific location? Click on “By address” to type in a street name, city or postal code
- Looking for more search options? Click on “Show More Options”
- Looking by species? Click on “Patient Species” and choose species from the drop-down menu
- Looking for a specialist? Under “Board Certified Specialist” select from the drop-down menu
- Looking for languages spoken? Under “Language” select languages spoken from the drop-down menu.
If you need assistance or have questions, contact the College at email@example.com. Click here for more information about the Public Register.
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