VCPR Requirement for Prescriptions and Other Treatments

Last updated March 2017

According to the AVMA Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics, it is unethical for a veterinarian to write a prescription or dispense a prescription drug, or provide other veterinary treatment, outside a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR).  The AVMA Principles state that the VCPR is the basis for interaction among veterinarians, their clients, and their patients and requires all of the following for a VCPR to exist:

  • The veterinarian has assumed the responsibility for making clinical judgments regarding the health of the patient and the client has agreed to follow the veterinarians' instructions.
  • The veterinarian has sufficient knowledge of the patient to initiate at least a general or preliminary diagnosis of the medical condition of the patient.  This means that the veterinarian is personally acquainted with the keeping and care of the patient by virtue of a timely examination of the patient by the veterinarian, or medically appropriate and timely visits by the veterinarian to the operation where the patient is managed.
  • The veterinarian is readily available for follow-up evaluation or has arranged for the following: veterinary emergency coverage, and continuing care and treatment.
  • The veterinarian provides oversight of treatment, compliance, and outcome.
  • Patient records are maintained.
In addition, Section 5 (2) of the AVMA Model Veterinary Practice Act states that a veterinarian-client-patient relationship cannot be established solely by telephonic or other electronic means.
The majority of states prohibit veterinarians from prescribing animal medications or providing other treatment outside of a VCPR, although the application of these laws vary. For example, some VCPR requirements apply to only to prescribing by veterinarians, while other laws cover all veterinary treatment. The following table provides a summary of the VCPR rules in each state, including those states that incorporate the AVMA Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics in their practice acts or regulations.      

VCPR Requirement for Prescriptions and Other Treatment​​​​ (PDF)

Source:  Staff Research, AVMA Division of State Advocacy & Leadership
Contact:  AVMA Division of State Advoc​acy & Leadership