How different is practicing as a veterinarian in the US versus Canada?
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It’s been half a year since I started practicing as a small animal veterinarian in the US. June will mark my 9th year of being a veterinarian. Time flies… One of my friends asked me how different the US is from Canada, so I compiled a list of ten differences related to animals or veterinary medicine:
1. Female-to-Male Ratio
I worked at many vet clinics in the Edmonton area as a relief or locum veterinarian prior to moving to the US. None of the Canadian clinics that I worked at had male client service coordinators or receptionists, the first line of interaction when clients enter a vet clinic. In Seattle, I’ve visited multiple clinics with men in that role.
2. Treatment Plans
One part of my job as a veterinarian that I dislike (other than euthanasias and complicated dentals) is having to go over treatment plans with clients who get outraged by fees. It’s great that universal healthcare exists in Canada. The downside is that a lot of Canadians have no idea how much their physical exams, medical procedures, or surgeries cost because they aren’t presented with receipts. They complain about vet fees that are a fraction of what the exact or similar procedure costs in human medicine.
The other downside is that some Canadians view healthcare as free (when it is actually being paid by taxes) and are more likely to get angry at their veterinarian for not providing free services. I wish Canadians were presented with healthcare receipts. I don’t miss the expressions of outrage over veterinary fees in Canada; going over treatment plans in the US is less stressful.
3. Medication Trade Names
There are medications given to pets with completely different trade names. Examples include: Zyrtec® (US) & Reactine® (Canada) [cetirizine] [both owned by the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson] and Temaril-P® (US) & Vanectyl-P* (Canada) [trimeprazine tartrate and prednisolone] [both owned by Zoetis].
4. Medication Colo(u)rs
Not only do Temaril-P® (US) & Vanectyl-P* (Canada), have different trade names, they are completely different in colo(u)r. In Canada, they are bright pink, but not in the US.
Even if the trade names are the same in both countries, they can be completely different colo(u)rs. Nizoral® (Ketoconazole 1%) Shampoo, the medicated human anti-dandruff shampoo sometimes used to bathe dogs with yeast infections is pink in Canada. It is blue in the US. A different colo(u)red dye is used in each country. Why do they add dye to the shampoo?
5. Medication Labels
Also, even if the trade names are the same in both countries, the labels can be different. One of my first surprises, after I started working in the US, was finding out that the ear medication Surolan® is only labeled for dogs in the US. It is labeled for both cats and dogs in Canada.
I was also surprised to find out that the anti-inflammatory painkiller Onsior® for cats is only labeled for 3 days in the US when it is labeled for 6 in Canada. The design of the blister packs in the US makes it look like there are 6 tablets, but there are only 3 per pack.
6. Medication Availability
Chlor Palm® (liquid chloramphenicol) is one of my favo(u)rite medications to prescribe for cats with upper respiratory tract infections in Canada. It is one of the few medications that tastes good to cats.
Unfortunately, Chlor Palm® is not available in the US. Liquid chloramphenicol can be compounded, but it is not commercially available in the US.
Of course, there are medications available in the US that aren’t available in Canada. The canine anti-inflammatory arthritis medication Galliprant® (grapiprant) is one such example.
7. Controlled Drugs
Controlled drugs in the US are under the jurisdiction of the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Veterinarians need to apply for a DEA license number to prescribe controlled drugs in the US. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has a Drug Enforcement Division, but there is no direct involvement with veterinarians.
Each veterinarian at the company I work for in the US has his/her own drawer with a drug box that nobody else can access. This is in contrast to Canadian veterinary clinics having one communal safe that multiple people have access to (and can steal from).
The US has interstate health certificates with different states having different regulations. (Being an island state, Hawaii is the strictest of the fifty states.) To write these health certificates, veterinarians need to be United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) accredited.
There are no interprovincial health certificates in Canada. This allows diseases to spread more easily from one province to another undetected. (!)
Plus, there is no special accreditation for veterinarians in Canada to write health certificates. Each veterinary clinic in Canada has its own health certificate, whereas there is one standard interstate health certificate form in the US.
9. Litigious Culture
Suing occurs more commonly in the US than in Canada. This difference is probably the most well-known of the differences between the two countries, but it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention it.
10. Licensed Techs
The last but not least important difference between the US and Canada is the shortage of registered or licensed veterinary technicians (RVTs or LVTs) in the US. Most of the clinics in Seattle don’t have one.
Here are the ten veterinary-related differences between the US and Canada:
- Female-to-male ratio
- Treatment plans
- Medication trade names
- Medication colors
- Medication labels
- Medication availability
- Controlled drugs
- Litigious culture
- Licensed techs
#10 took some getting used to (more double-checking of work by support staff, more explanations of what to do, etc.). #8 took up the most time. In order to become USDA accredited, I had to take many training modules and attend an orientation program. The closest one was in a town five hours away from Seattle.
Which difference were you most surprised by? Hope you found this blog post informative and interesting! 🐾