VCPR requirement for prescriptions

Updated October 2013

According to the AVMA Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics, it is unethical for a veterinarian to write a prescription or dispense a prescription drug outside a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR). The AVMA Principles provide that a VCPR exists when all of the following conditions have been met:


  1. The veterinarian has assumed the responsibility for making medical judgments regarding the health of the patient and the client has agreed to follow the veterinarian’s instructions.
  2. 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:
    1. a timely examination of the patient by the veterinarian, or
    2. medically appropriate and timely visits by the veterinarian to the operation where the patient is managed.
  3. The veterinarian is readily available for follow-up evaluation or has arranged for the following:
    1. veterinary emergency coverage, and
    2. continuing care and treatment.
  4. The veterinarian provides oversight of treatment, compliance and outcome.
  5. Patient records are maintained.​

The majority of states prohibit veterinarians from prescribing animal medications outside of a VCPR. The following table provides a summary of the VCPR-Prescription laws and rules that AVMA is aware of in this area.

VCPR Requirement for Prescriptions​​​ (PDF)

Source:  Staff research, AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Department
Contact:  Tara Southwell, State Policy Analyst, AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Department, 847-285-6779.