Frequently Asked Questions
Can a veterinarian refuse a new case?
Yes, a veterinarian has the right to refuse to take on a new case whether it is with a previous, current or new client.
Does the client have a right to a written prescription on request?
Yes. Additionally, clients should be informed of their options for filling prescriptions. Clients should be advised/cautioned about any potential issues or unknowns with respect to human formulations, and practitioners should record their advice to the client in the medical file.
Furthermore, clients should be cautioned against using unregulated online pharmacies. However, the client has the right to take a written prescription to whichever source they choose.
A prescription for treatment, whether pharmaceutical or otherwise, is part of the medical information and as such, belongs in the medical file. The client is entitled to both a copy of the file as well as a written prescription that they may fill wherever they choose.
Can a veterinarian insist on examining my animal before issuing a prescription or prescription re-fill?
Yes. A veterinarian is obliged to practice to the expected standard of a competent veterinarian. It is a matter of medical judgment as to whether they should examine the animal before issuing or renewing a prescription. This decision will consider multiple factors, including;
- the breed and/or species and whether there are any possible contra-indications;
- the general health and other medical issues of the animal;
- other drugs or supplements the animal might be taking which could interact with the new drug; and
- negative effects from long term usage of a drug.
“Examination” may include, at the discretion of the veterinarian, a physical exam and/or any diagnostic testing deemed necessary to assess the animal’s health. This may also include assessment of the appropriateness and efficacy of current medication, dosage and frequency, and screening for adverse effects.
Can a veterinarian ask me to prove that I own my pet or animal?
Yes, particularly in cases where previously there were co-owners and now one client claims to have sole ownership (usually marital separations). In such cases, the client must bring a signed agreement or other document that objectively verifies the sole ownership of the animal, or give consent to the veterinarian to contact the former owner to verify that they no longer co-own the animal.
Can a veterinarian refuse to perform a medical task (including euthanasia)?
Yes, because a veterinarian’s first obligation is to the animal. Veterinarians are obliged to advise the client of what is in the animal’s best interest in accordance with their medical judgment. If a client asks that a task be performed which the veterinarian believes is not in the animal’s best interest, the veterinarian is under no obligation to perform that task and should refuse to do so.
Euthanasia is the most ultimate and irrevocable medical procedure, and if a veterinarian feels that it is not necessary or not in the animal’s best interest, the veterinarian has a right to refuse to honour such a request from a client.
Does a veterinarian have to provide follow-up care?
Yes. A veterinarian must advise the client of the need for follow-up care if it is likely to be required, and inform the client of how and where such follow-up care will be provided/available.
Can I get a copy of my pet or animal’s medical records?
Yes, the general rule is that a veterinarian is required to provide a copy of the patient’s medical records upon the client’s request.
However, if a veterinarian has reason to believe that the person requesting the records as the owner is not the owner, they have the right to demand proof of current ownership before providing records. This can happen, for example, in the case of clients who are divorced, and the vet is not able to ascertain who at present is the legal owner of the animal.
Can my veterinarian charge a fee for giving me a copy of the records?
Yes, a veterinarian is entitled to recover from the client the reasonable costs of producing a copy of the records. What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances of the case; relevant factors may include the number of pages to be copied, the cost of staff time, etc. The CVBC will only investigate complaints about the amount charged where there is clear evidence of a fee that is unconscionably high.
Does my veterinarian have to give me the original medical records for my animal?
No, a veterinarian is required to provide to the client a copy of the medical records only. The original medical record is the property of the veterinarian/practice facility.
Does my veterinarian have to create records of the care of my animal? If so, when?
Yes. Veterinarians are required to create thorough and readable records pertaining to every medical case that they handle, as soon as reasonably practicable. Thorough here means that another veterinarian must be able to follow the chronology of patient care, client discussions & communications, reasoning behind conclusions and decisions, recommendations made, and any procedures or treatments that were performed or administered.
Can my veterinarian withhold my animal’s medical records if I do not pay my bill?
Yes, unless to do so puts the animal at significant risk; for example, if another veterinarian needs the records to properly assess the animal’s medical situation.
Can my vet refuse to give back my animal for an unpaid medical bill?
No. The CVBC maintains that there is no legal right to withhold an animal or to take ownership of an animal on the grounds of nonpayment of a bill. Even if there was an agreement to this at the time the client agreed to the provision of veterinary services, the CVBC would view this to be an unprofessional arrangement and contrary to the College’s Code of Ethics and the veterinarian’s Duties to Patients and Clients, to the College, and to the Profession.
Does the CVBC investigate complaints about veterinary bills?
Yes, but if and only if there is evidence of the following:
- Charging for services that were not rendered.
- Failure to provide the client with a reasonable estimate of the cost of the recommended medical services.
- Failure to obtain informed consent for the medical services rendered and actions taken.
- Fees that are so high as to be unconscionable.
- Failure to provide the client with a fully itemized bill upon request.
- Misleading advertising pertaining to the fees charged.
Please note that the CVBC does not have the legal power to order a veterinarian to refund or reduce a bill, or to compensate a client.
Does the CVBC set mandatory or recommended fees for veterinary services?
No, the CVBC does not impose or recommend any level of charges for veterinary services.
Veterinarians must be allowed to charge what they need (considering the widely varied overhead factors, local economic conditions, etc.) for their practices to survive and thrive. Veterinarians may charge fees that are higher than neighboring practices, so long as the fees are not so high as to be unconscionable.
Veterinarians may also charge or advertise fees that are relatively low-cost for services, insofar as the advertising is not misleading, and the services meet the standard of practice required. This includes all elements that the average consumer would reasonably assume are included in the advertised service for the fee advertised.