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Information for Veterinary Professionals

As a licensed member, you will find helpful information in this section to assist you with making changes to your licence and managing the accreditation of a veterinary facility. You will also find information concerning professional conduct and quality practice. 

FAQ - Professionalism in Advertising

Can a veterinarian advertise?

Yes, veterinarians can advertise the professional and ancillary services they provide. When advertising one’s business and services, veterinarians are expected to do so in a professional manner and in keeping with the Professional Practice Standard: Advertising. Advertising by veterinarians needs to be consistent with the duties, integrity, and dignity of the profession. 

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What can a veterinarian include in an advertisement?

Regulatory requirements in Ontario Regulation 1093 Section 36(1) outline the rules to follow when developing any form of advertisement.  A veterinarian shall ensure that information included in their advertisements complies with the following rules:

1. The information must be factual, accurate and verifiable.

2. The information must not,

  • be false, misleading or deceptive by the inclusion or omission of information,
  • contain any comparative or superlative statements, or
  • contain any endorsement or promotion of drugs or third-party service providers.

3. The information must not reasonably be regarded by the members as likely to demean the integrity or dignity of the profession or to bring the profession into disrepute.  

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Can a veterinarian advertise that they specialize in a specific service, like dentistry?

In order to use a term, title or designation which indicates specialization in veterinary medicine or represents to the public that a veterinarian is a specialist or is specially qualified in a branch of veterinary medicine, a veterinarian must be a graduate of a program that is approved by the College Council and is designed to educate a person to be a veterinary specialist in that area. For example, they hold 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.

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Can a veterinarian use testimonials in their advertising?

A testimonial, in the context of advertising, is “a statement from a client, former client, or other person that is solicited (directly or indirectly) by a veterinarian and used in an advertisement for the purpose of demonstrating esteem, admiration, gratitude, or praise for services provided by or experiences with the practice”.

A veterinarian is permitted to use testimonials in their advertising and may ask a client for a testimonial. However, veterinarians will still be held to professional standards regarding the manner and approach in asking for testimonials. For example, a client should not feel pressured to provide a testimonial. Veterinarians are expected to ensure that all forms of advertising they have control over (such as clinic websites, and their own social media) remain in line with Ontario Regulation 1093 Section 36.

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Can a veterinarian ask clients to rate them on a review or third-party website?

Yes. A veterinarian may ask a client to rate them or provide a review on a third-party website. When doing so, the veterinarian is held to professional standards regarding the manner and approach in asking for a review. For example, a client should not feel pressured to provide a review or rating. 

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Can a client “like” a veterinary practice’s Facebook page?

Yes. A veterinarian may ask a client to “like” the practice’s Facebook page. When doing so, the veterinarian is held to professional standards regarding the manner and approach in asking the client. For example, a client should not feel pressured to do so. 

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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 long as this information is factual, accurate and verifiable, it can be advertised in any advertising medium.

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Can a veterinarian advertise a clinic’s rating by a third party?

A clinic rating by a third-party company can be advertised as long as the third-party company is referenced as to the source of the rating. 

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Can a veterinarian advertise the products they stock at their clinic, or would that be considered an endorsement?

Veterinarians can advertise the products they stock at their facility. 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.

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Can a veterinarian be a spokesperson in a marketing campaign for a company’s product or service to the public?

A veterinarian cannot permit their status as a licensed veterinarian to be used in any communication offering a product or service to the public except for the products, veterinary services or ancillary services that they offer in their professional capacity.

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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”. 

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Where can a veterinarian advertise their services?

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

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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 them.  For more information on steering, please see the College’s Policy Statement: Steering

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Can a veterinarian hand out a non-veterinary business’ card or pamphlet?

Veterinarians are not allowed to endorse or promote 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.

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Can a veterinarian advertise prices/promotions?

Yes, prices can be advertised, regardless of what the price is (this can include free). When advertising prices, it needs to be clear what is included in the price cited. It should also indicate if any taxes will be additional or if they are included. As with all advertising, fees cannot be misleading or deceptive by the inclusion or omission of information.

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 pets, 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 of the services they offer. 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.

 

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Can a veterinarian offer rewards programs for services and products?

Rewards programs can be used. For example, clinics can participate in third party rewards programs so that clients can use their points cards 

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.

 

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Can I advertise that our clinic is helping 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.
  • A clinic can sponsor a local sports team.  The clinic name and/or logo can appear on a team jersey as a sponsor.
  • A clinic can donate product or services to a silent auction.
  • A veterinarian can sponsor a microchip clinic. For further information see: Conducting Programs for the Implantation of Electronic Identification Devices in Companion Animals. 

Note that drugs (including expired and returned drugs) cannot be donated as this is not allowed under Regulation 1093.

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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. 

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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.

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Can a veterinarian post a photo of a client’s pet or share a case story of a client’s pet on their clinic's website or social media platforms?

Before posting pictures or case stories of patients, a veterinarian must 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. 

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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. 

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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.

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