Veterinary advertising regulations: What not to advertise

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Aug 30, 2009
By dvm360.com staff

You may think of advertisements as only Yellow Pages ads, billboards, and event sponsorships. But at the session "The regulation of veterinary advertising and promotion," at CVC Kansas City, Douglas Jack LL.B. explained that even verbal statements to clients are considered advertising in the eyes of the law.

And that doesn't only apply to veterinarians—all statements by any member of the veterinary staff are subject to review.

Although regulations vary on a state-by-state basis, Jack offered these tips:

1. Don't make false, misleading, or deceptive claims.

2. Don't make claims of superiority or comparison. For example: "Our clinic is better than ABC Animal Hospital down the road."

3. Never guarantee a cure. For example: “This treatment will fix Spot." Instead, use more general language: "Based on our previous experience, we are very hopeful that Spot will make a full recovery."

4. Be careful when endorsing products or giving testimonials. Endorsements are defined as unethical unless they pass the muster of these four regulations:
a. The endorser must be a bona fide user of the product.
b. The endorser must be able to substantiate the results of data mentioned in the endorsement.
c. Any conflicts of interest—financial or otherwise—must be disclosed.
d. If the endorsement references a journal article, the reprint must be included in its entirety.

5. Don't imply you're a specialist unless you actually are one. Instead of saying you're a cardiology specialist, you can say you have a special interest or focus on cardiology.

Jack stressed that the law often isn't interpreted in black and white. The bottom line: Check with your state regulatory board or consult with a lawyer for more information for guidelines tailored to your area.