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Question for Vets re: non-vets giving medical advice

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  • Question for Vets re: non-vets giving medical advice

    I have a question for vets and vet techs out there. Legally, when does it cross the line for someone who is not a veterinary professional to give advice, for say allergies or diarrhea?

    For instance, can I tell someone on a forum to give Benedryl to an itchy dog to see if it works, or fish oil capsules for an arthritic dog?

  • #2
    I don't believe that it is illegal on an anonymous forum to give veterinary advice (scummy, but not illegal). It would be practicing veterinary medicine without a license to impersonate a veterinarian in real life and to charge people for practicing medicine on their pets.

    Unfortunately, the way the laws in most states are, you can perform veterinary work on your OWN pets legally (and there are horror stories about castrations etc. done by owners).
    Last edited by animaldoc; Dec. 10, 2012, 01:09 PM. Reason: I can't spell on Monday AMs! :-)


    • #3
      Sorry -posted to soon....

      Originally posted by LauraKY View Post
      can I tell someone on a forum to give Benedryl to an itchy dog to see if it works, or fish oil capsules for an arthritic dog?
      Yes - and most people giving advice on an internet forum aren't impersonating vets - they're just saying what they're experience has been (and that to me isn't even scummy - just people sharing experiences).

      Didn't want to give the wrong impression! :-)


      • Original Poster

        Animaldoc, what about on facebook, where it's not anonymous...not pretending to be a vet either, just a horse or pet owner?


        • #5
          Here is what the AVMA has regarding this: https://www.avma.org/Advocacy/StateA...-practice.aspx

          Practicing medicine w/o a license is unlikely to be prosecuted unless someone is charging for their services. Online, you're not writing a script, you're not performing a procedure. I would think it would be very hard to find that actionable even if someone was pretending to be a vet.

          From a lay person standpoint, you're pretty darned safe if you just preface your recommendations with "I'm not a veterinarian, but if it were my pet....."
          A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

          Might be a reason, never an excuse...


          • #6
            I think it's just WRONG to say you are a VET and you AREN'T! I don't care how knowledgeable you are, just say what you ARE and give that advise, don't fake your credentials!
            I want a signature but I have nothing original to say except: "STHU and RIDE!!!

            Wonderful COTHER's I've met: belleellis, stefffic, snkstacres and janedoe726.


            • #7
              read this; it's about fish, but is very directly relevant and well-stated:

              I think as long as you are very careful to NEVER give the impression you're some kind of licensed professional, and couch your advice in terms of "in my experience" people will be happy to have your thoughts about medical conditions.

              Often even people who have consulted a veterinarian, or plan to, still want people's opinions, thoughts, and experiences as a sort of "back drop" to their decision making.


              • #8
                Ah, updating with the times:

                "I'm not a vet, but I play one on CoTH...."
                Nudging "Almost Heaven" a little closer still...


                • #9
                  I could be wrong (am most likely am, LOL) but I think giving advice based on past experience isn't illegal or practicing vet medicine. Maybe not always a good idea since animals all react differently and can be dangerous...but I don't *think* it falls under practicing without a license.

                  I think it's defined more by impersonating a vet, giving advice and/or treatment for pay or actually treating the animal.

                  I think just about everyone will mention online (here of FB) of something that worked for them in the past or something their vet told them to use/try if someone else mentions similar/same symptoms with their animals.

                  Unfortunately I think many of us do that without thinking that:

                  1) animal could be allergic to whatever was recommended
                  2) animal could have other conditions/medications that will react badly with suggested treatment
                  3) animals' symptoms could have been misinterpreted by owner or advice-giver
                  4) owner may be attempting to avoid using a vet to avoid cost and animal could be worse tha described/really need a vet and we end up helping owner avoid a necessary vet bill to the detriment of the animal.

                  Don't know how many times I've asked, without thinking, "have you tried Benadryl?" to someone mentioning their dog is scratching the hair off of themselves. Although I do often mention, "I am not a vet and medicine isn't my forte either"...but that doesn't mean much I guess.
                  You jump in the saddle,
                  Hold onto the bridle!
                  Jump in the line!


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by LauraKY View Post
                    Animaldoc, what about on facebook, where it's not anonymous...not pretending to be a vet either, just a horse or pet owner?
                    It's probably something that hasn't really been challenged - as far as I know - like BuddyRoo says it's pretty unlikely to be prosecuted even in real life unless it's large scale like this story from Akron. I think there were originally vets at this clinic, but then they all left and this woman stayed behind and acted as a DVM:


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by MistyBlue View Post
                      3) animals' symptoms could have been misinterpreted by owner or advice-giver
                      To me, this is the big one - for one of my jobs I work a few shifts a month in a small animal ER. Can't tell you HOW many times the patient is TOTALLY different than I expect when it gets there based on what the owner has told us when they call in.


                      • Original Poster

                        Originally posted by Chardavej View Post
                        I think it's just WRONG to say you are a VET and you AREN'T! I don't care how knowledgeable you are, just say what you ARE and give that advise, don't fake your credentials!
                        I totally agree, but this isn't about someone pretending to be a vet. That's lower than scum.

                        As for MistyBlue's #4. Well, that's happened on COTH, hasn't it? But the wrath of COTH tends to descend upon them.


                        • #13
                          I know this is different then animals, but I answer the phone at the ER. I get tons of phone calls everyday asking if they should come in, or what should they take and so on. I am not allowed to give any advice at all. I can't tell them to come in or not to come in, I say you are more then welcome to come in if you feel it is an emergency. People will ask if they should take motrin, benadryl, or prescription drugs, and I can't tell them to take anything at all. For one I don't know what is really going on, and I don't know what medications they are currently on. They may be allergic to something and I wouldn't know that.
                          Derby Lyn Farms Website

                          Derby Lyn Farms on Facebook!


                          • #14
                            I don't even bother to preface with "I'm not a vet". If the member is looking for opinions on a horsie forum, it should be understood that other forumites are not vets UNLESS they state that they are.
                            So for ex, I answered a question about a non-healing eye ulcer because my horse had an indolent ulcer too. My reply was clearly about my experience, what was done with my horse, how long it took to resolve, etc.
                            Proud Member Of The Lady Mafia


                            • #15
                              I think giving advice from your past experiences to someone is just that. It's like me telling someone if they have a headache to use advil because it worked on my so try it. It is what it is and I will usually say get a vet to look at them as well. I'm no vet did work at one for Years and family and friends will still ask my thoughts on things and I'll give it but I still tell them I'd take the animal to the vet. That's just responsible ownership of an animal.
                              Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


                              • #16
                                I think the medication trunk that travels to shows with big show barns is an example of illegal activity. When a trainer gives prescription medication to a horse, he or she is breaking the law, unless a vet was consulted prior to administering the medication. It's one thing to have a little bute paste or something on hand to help with first aid or emergencies, but prescription meds should only be administered after a vet has been consulted.
                                Man plans. God laughs.


                                • #17
                                  My $.02 is that I will tell my experiences when I've had the same happen to me. Of course, you're on a horse board the other person is giving their interpretation of their horses' illness/lameness/whatev.

                                  To me, it's an awfully slippery slope when it gets to the point we can't share experiences of things we've personally experienced. Seems to me, take everything here with a grain of salt. If you are going to try something, try it carefully at first, not whole-hog. I mean, a bit of common sense goes a long way.

                                  On FB, a lady told me of a solution/treatment for something, which she had used, I'd never heard of. So, if some day, one of my hosses develops this problem, I'm going to try it first, but, no way would I hold her responsible if the treatment doesn't work. It worked for her but no guarantee it will work for me. That sort of thing.
                                  GR24's Musing #19 - Save the tatas!!


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Belg View Post
                                    Ah, updating with the times:

                                    "I'm not a vet, but I play one on CoTH...."
                                    LOL And if you pretend to be a vet without issuing that caveat on here, SOMEONE's gonna find you out and Lord help us the 45 page thread that will follow!!


                                    • #19
                                      What constitutes the practice of veterinary medicine varies from State to State, as it is defined by State law.

                                      Hence, why in some states equine dentistry is considered the practice of veterinary medicine, and thus must be performed by a vet, and in others its not.

                                      Giving advice based on personal experience will most likely not be considered "the practice of veterinary medicine" under any state's definition.
                                      Unrepentant carb eater


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by animaldoc View Post
                                        To me, this is the big one - for one of my jobs I work a few shifts a month in a small animal ER. Can't tell you HOW many times the patient is TOTALLY different than I expect when it gets there based on what the owner has told us when they call in.
                                        And for that reason I'm wary of anyone who offers specific, diagnostic advice on the internet (different than making general statements or telling anecdotal stories), whether they're a vet or a non-vet. Especially if they're a vet because they should know better.

                                        This is in the AVMA Code of Ethics (perhaps the real vets here can clarify whether it applies to all vets):

                                        III. THE VETERINARIAN-CLIENT-PATIENT RELATIONSHIP

                                        A. The veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) is the basis for interaction among veterinarians, their clients, and their patients. A VCPR exists when all of the following conditions have been met:

                                        1. The veterinarian has assumed responsibility for making clinical judgments regarding the health of the animal(s) and the need for medical treatment, and the client has agreed to follow the veterinarians' instructions.

                                        2. The veterinarian has sufficient knowledge of the animal(s) to initiate at least a general or preliminary diagnosis of the medical condition of the animal(s). This means that the veterinarian has recently seen and is personally acquainted with the keeping and care of the animal(s) by virtue of an examination of the animal(s), or by medically appropriate and timely visits to the premises where the animal(s) are kept.

                                        3. The veterinarian is readily available, or has arranged for emergency coverage, for follow-up evaluation in the event of adverse reactions or the failure of the treatment regimen.
                                        To me, when someone starts to give diagnostic advice on the internet, that in itself is a red flag that they are not a real or good vet.