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Frequently Asked Questions

The College provides answers to the most common inquiries.

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Practice Advice

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.

Dispensing: Can a veterinarian dispense a medication, other than a controlled substance, that has been prescribed by another veterinarian who works at a different clinic?

No; however, there are some narrowly defined exemptions in Regulation 1093 that allow a veterinarian to dispense to another veterinarian’s patient (individual animal or herd). These are 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.

Dispensing: Can a veterinarian dispense a controlled substance that has been prescribed by another veterinarian who works at a different clinic?

No; the College regulations only allow a member to dispense controlled substances to animals that are under their direct care. Clients do have the option of having the prescription filled by a pharmacist. (RRO 1990, Reg. 1093, s 28. (6))

Medical Records and Information: If a client declines to pay the fee to obtain a copy of their animal’s medical record, how can the veterinarian meet their obligation to provide the medical record to their colleague who is now treating the animal?

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.

Medical Records and Information: Can a veterinary clinic maintain logs electronically?

Logs can be maintained in a paper based or electronic format (the clinic does not need to maintain both).  Regardless of format, all requirements are to be recorded. With electronic logs (as with all electronic medical records), there must be the ability to print the logs if required.

Medical Records and Information: How long does a veterinary clinic have to keep medical records?

Medical records are kept for a minimum of five years after the date of the last entry made.  Radiographs and logs are considered to be part of a patient’s medical records and therefore, need to kept until the patient record can be removed from the clinic’s files (not based on the date the radiograph was taken or the log entry was made).

Medical Records and Information: Is a veterinarian required to provide a client with a copy of their animal’s medical record?

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 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.

Medical Records and Information: When a veterinarian prescribes a drug for a client’s animal, can the client ask them to write a prescription instead of purchasing the medication from the veterinary practice?

Yes, a client may request that a medication their veterinarian has prescribed for their animal be  dispensed at a pharmacy of their choice. Veterinarians will make a written prescription and may charge a prescribing fee.

Medical Records and Information: 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.

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.

Ownership: Two owners are listed in a 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.

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, they can decline treatment until evidence of ownership is presented (which may include a signed statement from the individual stating that they are the sole owner), unless the veterinarian determines that there is an emergency and treatment is necessary to prevent an animal’s suffering.

Prescribing and Dispensing: Can a client purchase medication for their animal outside of Canada or from an online supplier?

Yes; however, clients should be aware that products obtained outside of Canada are not subject to the same regulated approval process as drugs approved by Health Canada/Veterinary Drugs Directorate. Clients should research the online supplier before making a purchase to decide whether or not they 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 animal owners.

Prescribing: Why does a veterinarian require that an animal be examined before prescribing or dispensing medication for the animal? Is it necessary and should the veterinarian charge for the exam?

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. 

VCPR: 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 to someone who is not a client.

Before therapeutic diets are sold to non-clients, the potential risks to this group of animals should be assessed. 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 for a veterinary clinic to either call the regular clinic for verification and/or discuss further with the non-client before selling that product. For other therapeutic diets, (e.g. a maintenance type diet), selling directly to a non-client without consulting with their regular veterinarian/veterinary clinic is low risk.

VCPR: Are veterinary clinics allowed to discontinue providing veterinary services to a client and their animal(s)?

In certain situations, a VCPR may need to be terminated, despite attempts to address concerns.  In the interests of optimal animal care, termination of the VCPR may be the most productive option for both the client and the veterinarian. The client must be provided with proper notice of the termination and allowed a reasonable opportunity to arrange for care with another veterinarian. The steps to follow to officially terminate a VCPR and no longer be professionally obligated to provide care to a client/patient(s) can be found in the Guide to the Professional Practice Standard: Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (including a template letter).

Cannabis & CBD Oil for Animals

Cannabis: Before advising on the use of a legal recreational cannabis product, what does a veterinarian need to know?

It is important that veterinarians recognize that these products are not indicated for animal use; they are not classified as drugs and do not make health claims. Legally available cannabis products will not be labelled with animal safety in mind. Due to third party distribution of products in the recreational market, veterinarians should be vigilant in making recommendations and confirm the product obtained is appropriate for use. The scientific evidence to support the use of cannabis in animals, including safety and efficacy, is growing but remains limited. THC in cannabis has known toxic effects in pets and symptoms of toxicity can be severe. Veterinarians are not obligated to advise on use of cannabis products if they do not believe it is clinically appropriate. Veterinarians are accountable for any professional advice they provide to a client about their pet.  

Cannabis: Can a veterinarian prescribe cannabis for medical purposes?

No, a veterinarian cannot prescribe cannabis for medical purposes for their animal patients.

The Cannabis Act, Part 14, Cannabis for Medical Purposes applies to human patients; accordingly, a human healthcare practitioner (physician or nurse practitioner) can provide an authorization to their patient to access cannabis for medical purposes. Part 14 does not currently apply to veterinarians and their animal patients.

Cannabis: How can a veterinarian determine if a cannabis product is legal or not?

There are many cannabis products available that are not legal that clients may be accessing for human or animal use.

Veterinarians should not advise on the use of any illegal substance, including cannabis sold on the black market or unapproved cannabinoid products.

The only approved cannabis products for animals available in Canada at this time are veterinary health products made from hemp. These products:

  • Are exempt from the Cannabis Act as they contain < 10 ppm THC;
  • Are regulated by the Industrial Hemp Regulations (IHR);
  • Have no concentrated cannabinoids, including CBD;
  • Do not make health claims;
  • Are sold at retail; and
  • Are distinguished from unapproved cannabis products labelled for animal use by a Notification Number assigned by Health Canada.

Legally purchased recreational cannabis from authorized provincial retail sales outlets can be distinguished from black market cannabis by its packaging. Legal products:

  • Are not sold as drugs and as such must not be accompanied with human or veterinary health claims;
  • Are packaged and labelled according to strict rules set by Health Canada;
  • Have packaging with a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) excise stamp; and
  • Undergo quality control testing to ensure, among other things, that concentrations of CBD and THC that are indicated on the label are accurate, and that the products are free of specified contaminants (e.g. certain pesticides).

Cannabis: If a client buys a CBD product for their animal and asks a veterinarian to provide a dose for their pet, can a veterinarian do so?

There are many cannabis products available that are not legal that clients may be accessing for human or animal use. The pathway for access to CBD products for animals under the Cannabis Act is Health Canada approved veterinary drugs and these will have a drug identification number (DIN). Currently, there are no approved veterinary drugs with CBD. If it is determined that the product the client has is not approved, the veterinarian may inform the client of this and indicate that the product’s safety and efficacy are unknown. The product has not gone through the proper legal pathways to be approved by Health Canada. 

Cannabis: If a veterinarian chooses to advise on the use of recreational cannabis that their client has obtained legally through the provincial sales outlets, what are their obligations?

A veterinarian who chooses to provide advice should seek up to date information on cannabis use in animals through, for example, the scientific literature or continuing education. If a veterinarian chooses to advise on a legal recreational cannabis product for their client’s pet, they:

  • Must practice within the scope of their clinical competency;
  • Must weigh the evidence on cannabis against other available treatment options;
  • Must consider the known or suspected risks associated with its use in animals;
  • Must obtain informed client consent;
  • Must monitor patients and be available in the event of an adverse reaction or failure of treatment; and
  • Must be aware of the potential for abuse, diversion and misuse of cannabis.

Cannabis: What are Veterinary Health Products with 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. These products have no concentrated phytocannabinoids, including CBD. They are distinguished from unapproved cannabis products labelled for animal use by a Notification Number assigned by Health Canada.

Cannabis: What cannabis products can a veterinarian legally advise on?

Under the Cannabis Act, veterinarians are permitted to prescribe and dispense Health Canada approved drugs with cannabinoids, whether human or veterinary label. 

All cannabinoids, 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 veterinary drugs available on the market. Current human prescription products containing cannabinoids (e.g. Sativex) are often not appropriate for veterinary use. Veterinarians may recommend and sell veterinary health products with hemp that are approved through Health Canada’s Notification Program. Veterinarians may advise and caution clients on the use of legally available recreational cannabis for their pets based on sound professional judgment. A veterinarian interested in the use of cannabis in animals needs to stay informed of the rapidly changing environment related to cannabis.

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.

Licensure

How are veterinarians licensed in emergency situations?

Under the Licensure of Veterinarians in Emergency Situations Policy Statement, the Registrar is authorized to carry out the following actions pertaining to application for licensure made in response to a declared emergency:

  1. to issue and, where necessary, renew a short-term licence to veterinarians who are directed by a federal or provincial government body to perform specific veterinary services solely for the short-term, special purpose of dealing with the specified emergency situation.
  2. to waive application and licensure fees;
  3. to accept, as the nature of the emergency warrants, the Chief Veterinarian of Ontario or of Canada as the supervising veterinarian of short-term licensees, waiving the requirement for an undertaking to be signed by both parties;
  4. to waive the documentation requirement to have letters of standing sent from other jurisdictions, instead confirming that the applicant holds active licensure in good standing through direct communication with the regulator of the originating jurisdiction.

Registration Steps:

Applicant is to complete and submit the application for licensure
The Chief Veterinarian of Ontario or Canada submits a letter to the College detailing the request, including the following information:

  • the type of work to be performed and the reasons why this work will be performed
  • the dates (if known) that the applicant will be in Ontario

College staff to obtain verification from the regulator of the originating jurisdiction to verify licence number and to check professional standing.

How do I notify the College that I am now a board certified specialist?

The Public Register identifies all members who are specialists (those who hold certification with one of the American Board of Veterinary Specialists). To add this information to the Public Register, please contact the College so the designation can be verified either by viewing the original board certification or a notarized copy.

How do I renew my licence with the College?

Licensed members can expect to receive their Annual Licence Renewal information early in October. The deadline for the annual licence renewal is November 30th each year for submission of information and fees.

How do I request access to my record or to information that the College has related to me?

Licensed members can request access to their records by submitting a written request, with contact information and information to identify themselves, to the Registrar, College of Veterinarians of Ontario at inquiries@cvo.org or by regular mail to 2106 Gordon Street, Guelph, Ontario N1L 1G6.

How do I update my work information and/or home address?

If your address changes, you are required to notify the College in writing within 30 days of any change. The College must have your current home address, all practice addresses and email address on file. Only your primary practice will appear on the Public Register. To submit an address change, please login into the Professional Practice Portal.

How is access to records or information provided?

A licensed members is permitted to review the file in person at the College office, or copies can be sent to her/him, as appropriate. Occasionally, licensed members request that certain documents in their file be forwarded to another licensing body, and responses to those requests are honoured (within 1-2 days) at no charge. Please visit the College's Privacy Code for further details.

How long does the College retain licensed member records?

The College’s Retention Schedule specifies that licensed member records be kept indefinitely in an electronic format.  

How long is an application valid?

An application and supporting documentation are valid for one year, once submitted. Each application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis and the Registrar retains the right to seek resubmission of any outdated materials. The need for resubmission of application materials is determined by the applicant’s current activities. If an applicant is asked to resubmit any part of an application, the application fee will not be charged again.

If I don’t hold an active licence with the College can I still refer to myself as a veterinarian?

If you hold a current valid licence with the College, you can use the prefix Dr. and use the official title of veterinarian. If you do not hold a current valid licence with the College, you are able to use the post-nominal letters earned with the degree in veterinary medicine that was awarded to you (ex. DVM, BVSc).

What are the fees for licensure in Ontario?

Please refer to the Licence Fees page.

What are the licensing requirements for a graduate of an acceptable unaccredited school?

If an applicant for licensure is a graduate of acceptable but unaccredited school, they are required to pass the three National Board Examinations (the BCSE, the NAVLE and the CPE) to be considered for a General Licence. The College provides internationally trained veterinarians with the opportunity to acquire practical experience working under the supervision of a General licence-holding member, before they have passed the CPE.

What are the licensing requirements for a graduate of an AVMA-COE accredited school?

If you graduated from an “accredited” veterinary school, you will need to take the NAVLE and pass it on your first or second attempt; if you do not pass it in two attempts, you will have to take the CPE once you have passed the NAVLE as well.

What are the National Board Examinations?

The National Board Examinations consist of up to three examinations that measures entry-level competence in the theory and practise of veterinary medicine in a North American context. They are:

  • the Basic and Clinical Sciences Examination (BCSE)
  • the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE)
  • the Clinical Proficiency Examination (CPE)

How many examinations you will be required to pass depends on whether or not the school where you earned your basic veterinary medicine degree has been accredited by the AVMA-COE.

What duties can I perform as a veterinary medicine new graduate before I am licensed by the College?

Once a student has completed the curriculum of the OVC undergraduate program he/she must obtain a licence with the College prior to practising veterinary medicine or holding themselves out as a veterinarian including the use of the titles Dr. or veterinarian. Until the licence is issued, that new graduate may only work as an auxiliary. 

What duties can I perform while I am studying to obtain my veterinary degree at the Ontario Veterinary College?

The Veterinarians Act specifically exempts undergraduate students enrolled in the DVM program at the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) of the University of Guelph from the need to be licensed with the College while engaging in the undergraduate curriculum of studies. The provision permits these students to participate actively in externships and other clinical activities under the immediate or direct supervision of a CVO licensed veterinarian, both on campus during coursework and in clinical practice placements when placed in an elective rotation or in an externship. Students must be identified to clients as student learners.

A first year veterinary student is considered to be an ‘auxiliary’ and is restricted to only performing procedures which can be delegated to auxiliaries. An auxiliary cannot perform major surgery including castrations, declawing and dental extractions.

After a student completes their third year, he/she can participate in the externship program at the OVC which permits the performance of surgery under immediate supervision.

If a student is volunteering or working at a clinic outside of their DVM program – then they are restricted to acting as an auxiliary and cannot practise veterinary medicine. 

When can I refer to myself as a specialist?

From time to time, the term specialist gets defined in practice differently than intended. A veterinarian in Ontario cannot use the term specialist unless he or she is Board-certified in a specialty recognized by the AVMA.

To describe oneself as a specialist, when one is not, is considered professional misconduct. The term specialist is reserved for specialists who are certified by a recognized veterinary specialty organization approved by the AVMA. Stating one “has a specialty in…” is considered to be claiming specialist status. The same applies to the use of discipline-specific specialty terms such as radiologist, surgeon, and pathologist.

Different than a specialty designation, a veterinarian who has a practice focus in a specific area is able to communicate this focus by stating they have

  • an interest in ...
  • additional education in ...
  • a specific focus on ...

Public clarity in advertising and communication is essential. The public deserves to make an informed choice in all circumstances related to their animal(s)

Where do I find a listing of acceptable unaccredited schools?

You can find this list on the AVMA website.

Which schools are accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association – Council on Education (AVMA-COE)?

You can find this list on the AVMA website.

Why would access to my records be limited or refused?

An access to records request would rarely be limited or refused. This may occur when something in the record is considered to be a safety risk to the licensed member or another person if released. Legal advice specific to an application is, however, privileged, and would likely not be released to the licensed member.

Advertising

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:
  • print
  • radio
  • television
  • internet
  • social media
  • signs
  • billboards
  • 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.

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.

2019 Annual Report

The College's 2019 Annual Report discusses the College's priorities and accomplishments throughout the year.

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