VCPR: What You Need to Know

The Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR) is defined by the Veterinary Profession Act General Regulations. Essentially, it describes the criteria which must exist for several important interactions to take place between your veterinarian, you and your pet, including, but limited to prescribing medications, performing procedures and giving vaccinations.

The criteria for a valid VCPR to exist include:

“(a) the registered veterinarian has assumed the responsibility for making medical judgments regarding the health of a person’s animals and the need for medical treatment, and the person has agreed to follow the instructions of the veterinarian,

(b) the registered veterinarian has sufficient knowledge of a person’s animals so that the registered veterinarian may initiate at least a general or preliminary diagnosis of the medical condition of the animals by virtue of an examination of the animals, by medically appropriate and timely visits to the premises where the animals are kept or by both examination and visits, and

(c) the registered veterinarian is readily available for follow-up care in case of adverse reactions to or failure of the regimen of therapy provided by the veterinarian for a person’s animals.” (Province of Alberta Veterinary Profession Act, 2017, p. 18)

If government speak isn’t your forte, we can dissect these points further:

  • This point basically sums up that the veterinarian has taken on the patient as their own and will be responsible for their medical care. The other point in this is that the client has agreed to follow the treatment plan and instructions given by the veterinarian for their pet.
  • An example demonstrating this point is the importance of at least annual physical exams and the importance of bringing your pet to physically see the veterinarian if they are ill. This ensures the veterinarian is up to date and in the know about your pet’s condition allowing them to make an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
  • Not every pet will respond to treatment in the same way! Veterinarians should be available for follow-up care and in the case they are unavailable, be able to provide an alternate route of getting proper care and treatment for their pet. For example, clinics will recommend 24 hour veterinary facilities for the times when veterinary care is needed but the regular veterinary clinic is closed.”

A common example that we often seen in veterinary clinics that requires a valid VCPR is the prescribing, dispensing and refilling of medication. Clients often ask for medication to be dispensed to their pet without the pet being seen recently or being seen for a new condition. This puts the veterinarian not only in an ethical dilemma, but a legal conundrum as well. Legally, without a valid VCPR (following the points above), a veterinarian cannot prescribe or dispense medication. This ensures that the pet will be receiving the correct medication for the correct and recently diagnosed condition.

Want to know more about the Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship? Visit


Province of Alberta. (n.d.). Veterinary profession act general regulations. Retrieved February 18, 2017, from

Written by Jessica Sirovyak, Reception