We live in the age of instant and abundant information. Today’s horse owners and enthusiasts are extremely well-informed and have high expectations for the medical care of their animals. As a result, it is not uncommon when a horse develops a medical problem for the horse owner to desire a second opinion from an expert to supplement the information provided by his or her own veterinarian. In this day and age when finding contact information on anyone is an easy cyber task, more and more horse owners are directly contacting expert veterinarians and seeking advice on the diagnosis or care of their horses. Although done with good intentions, the exchange of advice from a veterinarian who has never seen the patient directly to the client is in violation of the laws governing the practice of veterinary medicine.
The practice of veterinary medicine includes the rendering of advice or recommendations by any means, including telephonic and other electronic communications, with regard to diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of animal disease. When veterinarians offer expertise and advice on a particular case that is not under their primary care, they are known as consultants.
A veterinary consultant should be someone with extensive experience–either through practice, research, or both–in a specific area of veterinary medicine. In veterinary medicine the act of consulting is regulated by the state’s veterinary practice act (a set of laws regulating veterinary practice). Although each state has it own veterinary practice act, the practice acts are very similar and modeled after a set of guidelines prepared by the American Veterinary Medical Association (you can read the model practice act at www.avma.org). The practice act defines consultation as when a licensed veterinarian receives advice by any method of communication from another veterinarian, licensed in any state, whose expertise would benefit a patient. The responsibility for