Can a client “like” a veterinary practice’s Facebook page?
Yes. This is not considered a testimonial as long as the veterinarian has not solicited the client to do so. When a veterinary practice advertises promotions on their Facebook page, but only provides the promotion to people who like their page, they are using an incentive to gain a positive review, which is like a testimonial. This is prohibited.
Can a non-veterinary business hand out a veterinarian’s business card/ or a clinic’s pamphlet?
Yes, if this is not a steering arrangement. Steering is a prohibited activity whereby a person is systematically referred or directed to a particular veterinarian or veterinary practice by another individual or organization, and where the direction is made for a reason other than the genuine belief that the receiving veterinarian or practice is being recommended for specialized skill, knowledge or expertise, and has the effect of restricting a person’s choice of veterinarian based on criteria of importance to him/her. For more information on steering, please see the College’s policy document.
Veterinarians are not allowed to endorse another business. A veterinary clinic would not be allowed to hand out another company’s card/pamphlet to market or advertise on the company’s behalf; however, in the context of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR), using information provided by a third-party company for the purpose of client education (for example, when discussing recommendations for patient care, or providing information about the products the clinic stocks) would be permitted.
Can a veterinarian advertise a clinic’s rating by a third party?
A clinic rating by a third-party company can also be advertised as long as the third party company is referenced as to the source of the rating. A link to the third-party site cannot be used in a veterinarian’s advertising.
Can a veterinarian advertise prices/promotions?
Yes, prices can be advertised, regardless of what the price is (this can include free). When advertising prices, be clear as to what is included in the price cited Also indicate if any taxes will be additional or if they are included. As with all advertising, fees cannot be misleading or deceptive.
Discounts can be advertised. For example, if a veterinary clinic is promoting dental health month, dental cleanings can be advertised as being X% discounted. Seniors, military, multiple pet, new client discounts can all be advertised as well if that is part of the veterinary facility’s fee structure.
Veterinary practices can use coupons to advertise promotions and prices. Coupons can be promoted in any public advertising medium. However, a clinic cannot use the services of a third- party company (such as Groupon) to sell discounted veterinary services on their behalf via a coupon program.
Third party company promotions can be advertised to clients. For example, if a clinic stocks a particular company’s foods, the clinic can let clients know about any discounts, coupon rebates or promotions such as “buy one get one free” that the company may be offering.
Can a veterinarian advertise that their services are better than another?
When advertising their practice, veterinarians cannot use comparisons to, or statements of superiority over, another practice/veterinarian, for example, “the best in town” or as “delivering the most compassionate care”. Such comparators are not usually verifiable.
Can a veterinarian advertise that they specialize in a specific service, like dentistry?
In order to use the terms “specialize” or “specialist”, the veterinary facility must have a veterinarian on staff who holds a certificate of specialization from the CVMA and/or the AVMA. It is acceptable to advertise that a veterinarian has "an interest" in for example, dentistry.
Can a veterinarian advertise?
Yes, veterinarians can advertise the professional and ancillary services they provide. Advertising by veterinarians should convey professionalism as it can affect the public perception of, and respect for, the entire profession of veterinary medicine. See the standard on Advertising for more information.
Can a veterinarian ask clients to rate them on a review or third-party website?
No. Veterinarians cannot ask individuals to rate them or provide a review on a third-party website as this is soliciting testimonials. If a client, writes a review of their own accord on a review site, about a veterinary clinic and their experiences, they are free to do so. Clinic websites should not have links to third party review websites. See the document on Testimonials for more information.
Can a veterinarian be involved in an endorsement?
No. Veterinarians cannot endorse specific products, brands of products, brand-name drugs or third-party service providers. For example, a veterinarian could not participate in a print ad campaign where he/she gives a testimonial about a product or service such as “I use product X on my own horses because it is the best on the market”.
Veterinarians can advertise the products they stock at their clinic on the clinic website. This is not considered an endorsement, unless the descriptors used make it such. This lets clients know what products and services are provided by the veterinary facility. For example, advertising that “our clinic stocks item A” is fine. Advertising that “our clinic stocks item A because it is the best” is not appropriate as this would be seen as an endorsement.
Can a veterinarian offer rewards programs for services and products?
Rewards programs can be used. Clinics can participate in third party rewards programs so that clients can use their points cards for example.
Veterinary facilities can also offer their own rewards programs for clients. For example, if a certain number of bags of food are purchased, they will get a free bag. Or perhaps if clients spend a certain amount of money, they will reach a free service or a discount on a future invoice. Rewards programs cannot be used to promote new client referrals.
Can a veterinarian post photos of client’s pets or share case stories of a client's animals on their clinic's website or social media platforms?
Before posting pictures or case stories of patients, a veterinarian needs to get the client’s consent. If a veterinarian is obtaining client consent to share an animal’s case story, be sure the client understands and agrees to what information will be shared. Written or verbal consent from clients is appropriate. If a veterinarian chooses to get verbal consent, it should be documented that consent was obtained. Posting pet photos or case stories on a clinic's website or social media should not be used as testimonials.
Can a veterinarian thank a client if they find out the client referred a new client to the clinic?
Yes. If a client, of their own accord, speaks highly of the clinic to family and friends and this results in a new client, a veterinarian can thank them. A thank you can be verbal, or a card/letter can be sent. If you wish to show your appreciation for the referral by giving a gift card, or a discount on services or products, that is fine too. This scenario differs from incentive programs because the client made the referral because they wanted to; not because they felt pressured to or that they would be rewarded for doing so.
Can a veterinarian use incentives programs to try to increase their client base?
No. Clients should not be offered compensation, rewards, or incentives to refer others to a veterinarian’s practice.
Can a veterinarian use testimonials in their advertising?
No. Veterinarians may not make use of client testimonials in the advertising they produce or have produced in a public medium. This includes using:
- links to third party review websites
- thank you cards/letters
- a story from a patient’s perspective
- comments from client surveys
These are examples of a testimonial. Testimonials have long been a restriction of regulators. See the document on Testimonials
for more information.
Can I advertise that the clinic is helping raise funds for a charity?
Yes, you may inform clients and the public about the clinic assisting charities. Examples include:
- the clinic is raising funds for a particular charity. Clients can then decide if they wish to donate. If the advertising of the charity includes corporate sponsors, this would not be considered an endorsement by the clinic, as the sponsors are connected to the charity.
Note that drugs (including expired and returned drugs) cannot be donated as this is not allowed under Regulation 1093.
My practice has a Facebook page. How do I ensure that what I post is permissible?
Navigating the social media environment can be tricky. Whether veterinarians use Facebook or other social media platforms as a public forum, they should consider applying the advertising regulations broadly, maintaining their professionalism, and protecting confidentiality. For more information on social media see Guidance on the use of Social Media.
Our clinic was nominated for/won a local business award. Can we let our clients know?
Yes, you can let your clients know that you have been nominated for an award. You can invite them to vote as well. If your clinic, veterinarians, or auxiliary staff win awards, this can also be advertised. The name of the organization that has given the award should be cited. As this information is factual and verifiable, it can be advertised in any advertising medium.
What can a veterinarian say in an advertisement?
Regulatory requirements outline the guidelines to follow when developing any form of advertising. The information provided in an advertisement should:
- be factual and verifiable
- not be false, misleading or deceptive
- contain no testimonials
- contain no comparisons to, or claims of superiority over, another veterinarian or veterinary practice
- contain no endorsement or promotion of specific products, brands of products, brand-name drugs or third-party service providers
- not guarantee a cure
- not be misrepresentative
- not make claims about the utility of any type of treatment beyond what can reasonably be supported as professional opinion
Advertising should not demean the integrity or dignity of the profession or to bring the profession into disrepute. See Professionalism in Advertising for further information.
When someone posts a negative review on social media or a third-party review site, should I respond?
Refer to the Guidance on the Use of Social Media document on the College’s website to assist with appropriate use of social media. Exercise caution when posting information online that relates to a client/patient. A suggestion is to move the conversation off-line by asking the individual to contact the practice directly. The College has no regulatory authority over third-party websites. To remove a negative review, contact the third-party review site, or seek legal advice depending on the circumstances.
Where can a veterinarian advertise?
Veterinarians can advertise in any public medium. This includes:
- social media
- bulletin boards
- booth (at a pet expo for example)
- “Welcome Wagon” or similar community welcome package/realtor package
- reusable shopping bags
A veterinarian should ensure the opportunity to advertise is one that is offered to multiple businesses and the advertising is not exclusive to that veterinary practice, since this can be seen as an endorsement or promotion of that practice.