Working with a Veterinarian

"Sheep and goat producers frequently comment that it is difficult to find a veterinarian who is willing and able to help with health care for their animals. Producers also remark that profits are slim and paying for a veterinarian is just too expensive.

It is true that many health-care tasks can and should be done by the producer. However, veterinarians have specialized knowledge and are trained to investigate, diagnose, and treat illness.  Also, many medications are not legal to use UNLESS you have a valid relationship with a veterinarian. 

A veterinarian can teach producers how to perform health care procedures properly.  And a veterinarian who will listen and is willing to learn and study further will soon develop strong competency with small ruminants and can actually save you money and help you provide better care for your animals.

Finding a veterinarian who will support you as a herd-health partner will pay dividends.

Paying attention to these points will benefit you, your veterinarian, and your livestock." ATTRA Tipsheet

Linda Coffey, NCAT-ATTRA

ATTRA offers sustainable agriculture information for farmers across the nation. Understanding how to work well with a veterinarian is helpful to keeping a healthy and productive herd or flock.

Valid Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship

In California, a veterinarian cannot legally administer, prescribe, or dispense any drugs or medication for the prevention or treatment of injury or disease of animals without an established veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR).

For the legal definition go to 16 CCR § 2032.1

A valid VCPR has three parts:

  • The client has authorized the veterinarian to assume responsibility for making medical judgments regarding the health of the animal, including the need for medical treatment,
  • 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 is personally acquainted with the care of the animal(s) by virtue of an examination of the animal or by medically appropriate and timely visits to the premises where the animals are kept, and
  • The veterinarian has assumed responsibility for making medical judgments regarding the health of the animal and has communicated with the client a course of treatment appropriate to the circumstance.
A VCPR cannot be established solely by telephonic or electronic means, with the exception for advice given in an “emergency,” until that patient(s) can be seen by or transported to a veterinarian. 
It is so important to establish a VCPR before emergencies arise so that you can have a plan in place. If necessary and appropriate for the condition, telemedicine can be conducted within an existing VCPR.