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 clinic let their clients know about a product promotion?
Yes. If a clinic stocks a particular company’s foods, for example, the clinic can let their clients know if this company is offering any discounts on price, coupon rebates, or promotions such as “buy one get one free”.
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 $1 exam?
Yes. The College does not make policy related to business models or fee structures. Veterinarians who own practices determine the fees and charges for their services. Advertised prices should not be deceptive or misleading. As with all fees, clients need to be informed about what the $1 exam does and does not provide.
Can a veterinarian advertise his/her 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 in the “Welcome Wagon” or Realtor welcome package?
Before advertising in the “Welcome Wagon” or similar community welcome package, a veterinarian should ensure the opportunity to advertise was 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.
Can a veterinarian advertise prices?
Yes, prices can be advertised. 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.
Discounts can also 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.
Can a veterinarian advertise that he/she specializes 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 dentistry.
Can a veterinarian advertise?
Yes, veterinarians can advertise the professional and ancillary services they provide. Changes to Regulation 1093 allow for veterinarians to market their services to members of the public in order to improve the viability of their practices. 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 Professionalism in Advertising for more information.
Can a veterinarian ask clients to rate him/her 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, of his/her own choice, writes a review on a third party website about a veterinary clinic and his/her experiences there, they are free to do so. The College has no regulatory authority over third party websites. 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 patients on his/her 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 he/she finds 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 he/she wanted to; not because he/she felt pressured to or that he/she would be rewarded for doing so.
Can a veterinarian use coupons in advertising?
Yes. Veterinary practices can use coupons as a way 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.
Can a veterinarian use incentives programs to try to increase his/her 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 his/her advertising?
No. Veterinarians may not make use of client testimonials in the advertising they produce or have produced. Clinic websites should not have links to third party review websites. It is prohibited to use reviews or thank you cards/letters from clients or a story from a patient’s perspective in advertising on a clinic’s public website or other public medium. 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 charity fund-raising and they may donate if they wish. 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.
Can the clinic support a local sports team?
Yes, a clinic can sponsor a local sports team. The clinic name and/or logo can appear on a team jersey as a sponsor, for example.
Can we post comments gained from client surveys in the office?
Veterinary facilities can send a client a survey to receive feedback to assist with clinic policy/protocol revisions, etc. Any positive comments that a client makes on a survey can be shared with clinic staff; however, posting these comments in the clinic would still be viewed as using a testimonial. Advertising occurs both within a clinic and outside of the clinic dependent on the advertising medium used. A client comment on a survey is different than a thank you card. These comments were solicited as part of the survey. A client sending a thank you card is something that is done without any prompting from the clinic.
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.
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.
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, and on signs and bulletin boards. Veterinary clinics can also participate in tradeshows, such as “pet expos” by having a booth.