Client Management Guidelines

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Reduce the Likelihood of Malpractice Allegations and Board Complaints

Before Treatment

  1. Advise the client of the options, risks, and cost estimates.
  2. Never make a statement to the client that can be misinterpreted as a guarantee or warranty of results.
  3. Make sure the client fully understands the procedure that will be performed. 
  4. Secure client’s written consent before performing any procedure. Examples include: surgery, anesthesia, diagnostics, euthanasia, and alternative medicine.
  5. Do not refer to yourself as a specialist unless you are Board Certified, as you will be held to a higher standard of skill and competency. 
  6. Ask if the animal has been under the care of another veterinarian. Obtain pertinent records when necessary.
  7. If you can’t access equipment for a preferred diagnostic or treatment procedure, offer a referral. If emergency circumstances require you to proceed, inform your client of the risk involved and secure your client’s written consent. .
  8. Use appropriate identification techniques to avoid treating the wrong animal or wrong body part. 
  9. Note the procedure that you are admitting the animal for into the medical record. Review them immediately before surgery to avoid performing the wrong procedure.

During Treatment

  1. Keep accurate and detailed records of treatment and exam findings of animals in your care. 
  2. Avoid client assistance—especially with restraining animals. 
  3. Communicate regularly with the client about treatment progress, course of action, prognosis and cost.

After Treatment

  1. If treatment was unsuccessful, avoid questioning the original course of action. Present additional options when appropriate.
  2. A necropsy should be performed when the cause of death is in question, and always offer the client the option of pursuing a necropsy. Using a veterinary pathologist is recommended.
  3. Continue communication as you see fit. Tell the truth and never speculate.
  4. Always express compassion for the client(s) and animal(s).
  5. Do not release original medical records or radiographs. Provide copies of medical records to client upon request or if required by law.

Potential Claim

  1. Never make a statement agreeing to the settlement of a malpractice charge.
  2. Any fee adjustment should be presented as a goodwill gesture and not an acknowledgment of negligence.
  3. Call the PLIT office immediately if an event occurs that could result in a claim. A client’s expression of dissatisfaction is sufficient reason for notification.
  4. Cooperate fully with your claim representatives.
  5. Never discuss possible malpractice—your own or another veterinarian’s—with clients or their attorneys. If a client’s attorney contacts you, state that you will notify your insurance carrier to handle the matter. 

General Guidelines

  1. Always maintain confidentiality of the veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
  2. Label all dispensed products. Include the warning: “Keep out of reach of children.” If the product is toxic, label it “Poison.” Use child resistant packaging whenever possible.
  3. Stay up-to-date and informed about advancements in veterinary medicine.
  4. Be familiar with federal, state, and local laws affecting your practice including: waste disposal, service of imaging equipment, compounding, drug labeling and storage, dispensing of controlled substances, and maintenance of records.
  5. Be familiar with your state practice act, and pay special attention to any veterinary-client-patient relationship sections.
  6. Consider maintaining copies of client records at an off-site facility. Consult your state practice act for guidelines on how long records should be maintained. 
  7. Collection attempts could initiate malpractice allegations.
  8. Ask the client if he or she understands and if there are any questions or concerns.


If you have any questions about these guidelines or require advice about a specific malpractice concern, please call the PLIT at 800-228-7548, option 2.

You can also visit the PLIT Action Center at to access content and tools detailing steps to take if you have a potential or actual malpractice claim or license complaint. The Action Center was created as a resource to educate veterinarians on the claims process.Take control by taking action!    

These guidelines do not replace or supersede any federal, state, or local laws. These are guidelines only and are not intended to set a standard of care.