Get ready to access antibiotics: Establishing a vet-client-patient relationship


Beginning later this year, livestock owners across Canada will have to jump through one extra hoop before accessing certain antibiotic veterinary products. The move is part of a broader strategy to manage antibiotic resistance in human health, and it’s not without controversy.

Starting in December, farmers will need an existing vet-client patient relationship (VCPR) to access certain antibiotics by vet prescription, heralding in concerns regarding timely treating of animals, added paperwork, and costs. On the list are very familiar names like oxytetracycline and penicillin — products currently available at feed stores and other farm supply locations.

Dr. Judy Currie, a veterinarian and secretary of the Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Association, presented this week to the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association regarding the new antibiotic access rules coming into force. Shaun Haney was there to ask her more about the VCPR, what it is and what it isn’t, and how farmers and ranchers may approach livestock health under the new rules.

“People who already have a good working relationship with their veterinarian are going to see little difference when this law comes into effect,” Currie says. It’s those that are very far from a vet or who don’t currently work with vets that will have the most adapting to do.

She says we could see more rapid evolution of tele-medicine — using video, phone calls, photos, and lab samples remotely to make a diagnoses — because of the new rules, but that too is a somewhat controversial topic for vets.

Farmers and ranchers need to know that a vet-client relationship has always been a requirement of any veterinary recommendation, vets themselves and as an industry simply haven’t been that vocal or public about how it factors in to livestock care, Currie says.

The same can be said for the requirement to keep good records of assessment and treatment plans. “If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen,” she says. For example, if in the case of an insurance claim, if you can’t produce a medical record of symptoms, test results, and/or treatment plan from your vet, the claim won’t likely proceed. Good record keeping has always been an important part of livestock care.

Will these new rules and decreased convenience of access to antibiotics have an impact on antibiotic resistance? Currie can only say that preventing and managing resistance is the responsibility of each person, livestock owner, and veterinarian, and that begins with responsible use of these very important products.

Listen below for the full discussion with Currie, and if you have anymore questions, call your vet, find a vet if you don’t currently have one, or call your provincial veterinary association.  


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