close search panel

Information for the Public

The College protects your right to safe, competent and ethical veterinary care. When you require the services of a veterinarian, you can expect to receive safe, quality care from a highly-trained licensed professional.

Draft Professional Practice Standard - Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship

Consultation Backgrounder – VCPR 

The Professional Practice Standard: Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR) was published in 2016 to assist veterinarians with understanding the professional obligations associated with their working relationships with clients and their animal(s). No substantial changes have been made to the document since its publication date.

The VCPR is the foundation upon which veterinary medicine is based. VCPRs are unique in that no two relationships are the same. Each VCPR has its own circumstances and parameters that can be as wide-ranging as the animals they serve. Given this, the College strives to provide clear expectations and guidance that assist veterinarians and help empower safe and efficient practice.

In Spring 2021, College staff conducted a review of the Professional Practice Standard: VCPR. This review flagged several key areas that required potential revisions to enhance clarity and conciseness inclusive of: 

  • The standard currently contains a professional expectation that requires veterinarians to provide written notice of VCPR termination to clients which is overly onerous in many situations; 
  • The standard has not been reviewed since the College introduced its updated prescribing and dispensing standards in Summer 2018, which has resulted in unnecessary duplication; 
  • The standard does not clearly  outline that the scope of services provided within a VCPRcan vary, and that it is necessary that a veterinarian and client discuss and reach an agreement as to the scope of services at the outset of a VCPR; and 
  • The standard contains outdated general language that requires updating.

Based on these initial considerations, a proposed draft amended Professional Practice Standard: VCPR was presented to Council in September 2021. Discussion around these proposed changes was in-depth and raised several additional points for consideration related to establishing scopes of services, limiting scopes of services, and ensuring ongoing adherence to professional obligations related to the prescribing and dispensing of drugs.

In December 2021, Council reviewed a further updated proposed draft of the standard. This draft included:

  • A reworked introduction which emphasizes  that a VCPR includes an agreement between a veterinarian and a client regarding scope of services and is a separate conversation from informed client consent; 
  • A transition away from the use of the term “termination of the VCPR” in favour of “discontinuation of the VCPR”; 
  • The introduction of a definition of “scope of services” to help veterinarians better understand the concept and their ability to determine the particular circumstances and parameters in which they can offer their veterinary services; 
  • Clearer references to other professional practice standards that are relevant when considering the VCPR; and 
  • An updated approach to discontinuation that acknowledges that a VCPR can come to a natural end. (ex. upon the death of an animal)

Council also discussed the importance of ensuring that veterinarians continue to understand their obligations related to the provision of after-hours care and their inability to separate or remove this requirement from any VCPR. 

The following examples illustrate these expectations further: 

Example One 

A veterinarian works at a facility that provides general medical and surgical services for bovine, specifically for dairy cows.  The veterinarian explains to potential clients that thescope of services includes providing  preventive healthcare services, general medical and surgical services, and that they provide their own services outside of regular hours of operation if needed for animals in the herd that they have treated recently or treat regularly.  A veterinarian working at the facility is available during regular hours and outside of regular hours if there is an adverse reaction from a prescribed drug. The client agrees to the scope of services offered. The VCPR has no pre-determined endpoint and either the veterinarian or the client can end the VCPR if they feel the relationship is not able to continue

Example Two 

A non-client calls a companion animal hospital during regular business hours. The client is concerned that their dog has an ear infection. The client is visiting the area for a month. 

The veterinarian discusses with the client that the clinic can establish a VCPR with the scope of services limited treatment of the ear infection only. Note that, This inherently includes provision of after-hours care related to treatment of the ear infection. The VCPR would be discontinued once the ear infection has resolved, and the patient is no longer on medication prescribed for the infection or the client has returned home, and their regular veterinarian continues care of the patient.  The client agrees to the scope of services offered. 

During the treatment time, there is an after-hours emergency unrelated to the ear infection and the client requests that their dog be seen.  The veterinarian would then need to decide if they would want to move forward with establishing a new VCPR for the requested services. 

After review, Council determined that the proposed standard should be circulated for public consultation to gather feedback related to the changes and whether they achieve enhanced clarity and understanding amongst both the profession and the public.

Download Draft Professional Practice Standard - Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship
This consultation is now closed.

Jurisprudence Exam

The College's jurisprudence exam requires applicants to demonstrate knowledge of and the ability to apply relevant Ontario legislation and regulations, as well as College standards and guidelines.

2021 Annual Report

The College's 2021 Annual Report presents an overview of the College's work throughout the past year.

Sign up to receive the newsletter

Sign up for the College public newsletter to stay informed on topics related to the regulation of veterinary medicine in Ontario.

Ask a Practice Advisor

The College's practice advisors provide information on the regulations, policy and expectations associated with the practice of veterinary medicine in Ontario.