FDA has recently announced it is relaxing its enforcement of telemedicine for veterinarians under two federal provisions:  (1) when prescribing extralabel drug use; and (2) when prescribing medicate feed pursuant to the Veterinary Feed Directive.  Both generally require an initial physical examination of animals prior to such prescription.

FDA only enforces certain regulations governing a veterinarian’s relationship with its clients and patients.  As stated in a news release “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Helps Facilitate Veterinary Telemedicine During Pandemic,

The federal [veterinarian client patient relationship] VCPR definition requires that veterinarians physically examine animal patients and/or make medically appropriate and timely visits to the location where the animal(s) are kept. Therefore, the federal VCPR definition cannot be met solely through telemedicine.

Recognizing the importance of veterinary practice to animal and public health, FDA, provides the following examples of its proposed relaxed standards:

For example, the owner of a sick dog could share a video with a veterinarian. If necessary, the veterinarian could then prescribe a drug not approved for use in dogs or for that illness (extralabel use). As another example, a veterinarian could remotely examine and diagnose a group of food-producing animals with a skin disease, and then authorize the use of certain drugs in the animals’ feed.

Veterinarians, should be and are aware, that state law predominantly governs the practice of veterinarian medicine.  Therefore, a review of the current relevant state law statutes and regulations must also be considered when providing for animals in each particular state.  An easement on federal regulation does not preempt state veterinary practice laws.  That said, some states had previously introduced and adopted regulations permitting telemedicine as prescribed, and other states would likely take a reasonable approach to such care.

Practitioners should record the content of any telemedicine-provided examination and treatment, consistent with the standards of care in each state and practice area.