Many online services offer veterinary advice remotely. However, to receive a diagnosis and get medications to treat your pet’s condition, you must participate in a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR). Our Marcy Veterinary Clinic team wants to ensure your pet receives the best care possible, and we provide information about this necessary relationship.

What is a veterinarian-client-patient relationship?

A VCPR is established when your veterinarian is familiar enough with your pet that they can diagnose and treat medical conditions your four-legged friend develops. To initiate a VCPR, everyone involved must meet the following criteria:

  • The veterinarian assumes responsibility for making clinical judgments about the pet’s health.
  • The client allows the veterinarian to take responsibility for making clinical judgments about their pet, asks questions to ensure understanding, and agrees to follow the veterinarian’s instructions.
  • The veterinarian has adequate knowledge of the pet to deliver a diagnosis about their medical condition. This occurs only when the veterinarian examines the pet in person. A valid VCPR cannot be established online, or by phone or email.
  • The veterinarian is available for a recheck evaluation, or has arranged for the pet’s continuing care and treatment.
  • The veterinarian oversees the pet’s treatment.
  • The client complies with the veterinarian’s treatment advice.
  • The veterinarian maintains accurate medical records about the pet’s condition.
  • The veterinarian ensures the client knows how to access their pet’s emergency care if needed.

How is a veterinarian-client-patient relationship maintained?

You help maintain the VCPR by regularly scheduling your pet’s veterinary visits so they can monitor your furry pal’s health. Between medically necessary examinations, the VCPR can be maintained via telephone or other communication methods. However, your veterinarian must decide if this is appropriate and in your pet’s best interest. A VCPR typically lasts for 12 months, during which your veterinarian prescribes particular treatments, such as a heartworm preventive, thyroid supplementation, or anti-inflammatory medication, for your pet’s known, ongoing conditions, which they have diagnosed within 12 months of your furry pal’s most recent physical examination. Some medications, such as anti-seizure medications, require an examination every six months. If your pet exhibits signs of a new condition, your veterinarian must examine them again to establish a VCPR for the new problem.

Why is a veterinarian-client-patient relationship important?

To ensure your pet receives the best care, New York State law requires a VCPR. Without knowing your pet’s medical history and evaluating their condition face-to-face, a veterinarian cannot make an informed decision regarding your furry pal’s diagnosis and treatment plan. A VCPR is also necessary for a veterinarian to prescribe medications for your pet. 

Why is a veterinarian-client-patient relationship better than an online service?

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) “oppose remote consulting using telemedicine, offered directly to the public when the intent is to diagnose or treat a patient in the absence of a VCPR.” However, online veterinary services can offer general advice, triage patients, and answer general follow-up questions about pets recovering from illness or surgery. Before contacting an online veterinary service, however, consider the following:

  • General pet health information — An online veterinary service can provide general pet health information about issues such as nutrition, grooming, normal health parameters, and behavior, but they are answering these questions without knowledge of your pet’s medical history or their current laboratory values, or whether your furry pal has an underlying health condition. This information is extremely important when offering advice about a diet plan or determining the cause of your pet’s behavioral issues. Our Marcy Veterinary Clinic team provides more than general advice. We know you and your pet—especially their health history—so we can provide individualized care for your four-legged companion.
  • Information about preventive care — Online veterinary services can provide advice about vaccines and parasite prevention options, but these decisions are best made by a veterinarian who knows your pet’s medical history and lifestyle. To devise a custom vaccination schedule to protect your pet against infectious agents, our team evaluates your pet’s lifestyle and infection risk. In addition, we are better able than an online veterinary service to determine the appropriate parasite preventive for your pet, because we are familiar with the environment in which your four-legged friend lives.
  • Follow-up concerns — If your pet is recovering from an illness or surgery, an online veterinary service can provide general information about their condition, but this consultation does not replace a face-to-face recheck with the veterinarian who treated your four-legged friend and is familiar with their condition. To determine whether an incision site is healing appropriately, a veterinarian must evaluate your pet in the clinic, and to ensure your ill pet’s condition is improving, your veterinarian must perform diagnostics. Because your pet’s care notes are saved in their electronic medical record (EMR), our veterinary team knows exactly what happened during your pet’s procedure or illness, and we are better informed than anyone to determine how your furry pal’s treatment should progress. 
  • Triage — Online veterinary services can help determine if your pet needs emergency care, but calling our team first saves time if your pet requires veterinary attention. In addition, calling our team ensures we know about your pet’s condition so we can add the information to your pet’s EMR.

Although you may think an online veterinary service can save you the hassle of bringing your pet to a face-to-face veterinary examination, these services do not know your pet or any specifics about their health. Participating in a VCPR is important to protecting your pet’s wellbeing. To establish your VCPR, schedule an appointment with our Marcy Veterinary Clinic team.