Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Animals must get exam before vaccination

Ruling by state veterinary board applies to all Oregon veterinarians and all pets

The era of vaccine clinics with discount prices and immunizations given by veterinary technicians is over.

Two recent decisions have made crystal clear the way Oregon veterinarians must deal with their patients and owners.

And that requires an annual physical exam before giving any vaccination.

The Oregon Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) late last year clarified its position on what constitutes a relationship between the vet, client and patient. That clarification to existing rules required the annual exam.

But there were objections from a few veterinarians and many Oregon residents. Some said there should be exceptions, and an exam wasn't always necessary.

An amendment was proposed to change the Oregon Administrative Rule that required an annual physical exam for each patient.

That proposal allowed some discretion in withholding the exam if an animal appeared to be healthy. The rule amendment was presented to the Oregon Veterinary Medical Examining Board, suggesting vaccinations be allowed to 'apparently healthy animals' without an exam.

After a hearings officer heard the evidence and testimonies, the officer's ruling to require the exam for every patient was made public a couple of weeks ago.

That announcement underscored the importance of regularly monitoring each animal's health.

Among written comments submitted to the hearings officer were 50 opposed to the change and five in favor.

Two vets in Sandy, from both of the city's veterinarian clinics, were in the minority - they favored the change.

Jennifer Betz, DVM, of the Sandy Animal Clinic said she understood residents' objections to the cost of exams, especially for families living near Mount Hood who, for example, care for a team of dogs.

The no-exam clinic, with vet technicians giving shots, has been operating in Sandy for about 20 years to benefit people who had what appeared to be healthy animals in need of preventive vaccine at a discounted price.

'That (clinic) freed me up to have open appointments for sick pets,' Dr. Betz said. 'About 75 percent of our clients come in once a year for their annual physical exam. And they also would come to the vaccine clinic for the lower price.'

She said the other 25 percent comprises a group unable or unwilling to pay for annual exams for every animal.

Dave Christenson, DVM, of the Barlow Trail Veterinary Clinic predicted some people would just stop vaccinating their animals.

Even though Christenson said annual exams is a good medical practice - especially for animals, because they age faster than humans - he also understood why people say that standard of care isn't required for humans, so why should it be for animals?

Randall Haveman, DVM, of the Sunnyside Veterinary Hospital in Happy Valley joined the Sandy vets in favor of the relaxed rule.

Haveman told the hearings officer he routinely examines animals before vaccinations if they have any medical concerns, and he doesn't vaccinate sick animals. But he also wanted to separate exams from vaccinations for clients who come to him just for a rabies vaccination as well as people with many pets who try to keep up with vaccinations.

Other vets said they are concerned people would feel forced to go to a feed store and buy vaccine and administer it themselves to save on the cost, without due regard to the need for vaccine or the timing or the administration technique - or the animal's health.

A poll of Oregon vets showed that two-thirds of those responding opposed relaxing the rule and only 28 percent were in favor of the change.

But even though the standards of care for vets dictated annual physical examinations, those exams were sometimes not requested if the animal appeared healthy to the owner. This was true in Sandy during those less-expensive vaccination clinics.

But that standard of care should not be reduced, say a majority of the state's vets.

OVMA Executive Director Glenn Kolb testified to the hearings officer on the importance of the physical exam.

'We believe that you will find a common thread among (comments from vets in the poll),' he said, 'that underlying health issues are often discovered only through a physical examination.'