Rules for getting your pets records vary from state to state. Heres how to get them.
You and your dog’s vet are partners working in sync to get the best care for your pet. In most cases that relationship is a warm and collegial one. You both have your dog’s best interests uppermost in your minds and whether it’s routine exams or more extensive care that is needed, a close and trusting relationship is imperative.
But, what happens when you and your vet don’t see eye to eye? Just like with medical personnel that treat people, sometimes you feel that you and your doctor aren’t on the same page. Maybe it’s just a gut feeling, or perhaps it’s a personality conflict. When you are talking about your own health you must have a trusting and satisfactory relationship. The same applies to pets. And, just like with doctors treating humans, there may be times when you want to seek the advice of another vet. Perhaps you’ve moved to another community, or your vet has retired and you need to find another professional. There may also be times when you and your vet just aren’t maintaining the warmth and trust you feel you want. Whatever the reason what should you do when you decide to switch vets?
Finding Another Vet
In most cases the process is fairly easy – talking to friends about where they take their pet for veterinary care, doing some online research, etc.
One of the things you want to do is provide your new vet with a complete medical history of your dog. That’s something your previous vet ought to provide on request. But, the law about providing such records varies from state to state. While all states have laws and regulations governing the release of pet records, some are more extensive than others. And some leave the process up to interpretation. For example, in West Virginia the entirety of the law governing such records is, “records are the responsibility and property of the owner of the facility or the veterinarian.” Whether that means the pet owner can get the records or not is open to question. Most other states state fairly clearly that upon owners’ requests the records must be provided. There is also a general understanding that vets may charge a ‘reasonable’ fee for copying and providing such records.
But what if a vet refuses to comply? While such instances are very rare, when it does occur you might be facing a problem. Enforcement of regulations is often spotty and many state departments of veterinary affairs have minimal if any enforcement powers. And, for example, if a vet charges what you consider an exorbitant fee for your dog’s records it could be difficult and certainly time consuming for you to get officials’ attention and a satisfactory resolution.
As stated previously difficulties with vets are very rare. But, the best thing you can do to protect you and your pet and avoid the potential of any problem with obtaining your dog’s records is to maintain your own records. Each time you visit your vet ask for a copy of any tests or procedures that are undertaken. Even taking your own notes as you discuss things with your vet could be very useful should you need a quick reference when discussing your pet’s conditions with a new vet. In many states there is a period of time – often up to several weeks – that a vet has to comply with a records request. If your pet needs immediate help from a new vet that may be too long a time to wait. So, if you have your notes and paperwork available that may speed things along with the new vet.
To see a list of the records’ regulations for your state, click on American Veterinary Medical Association. If you don’t live in the U.S. look for a similar agency. Or simply ask your vet about such things on your first visit so you know what to expect should the need arise.