Zoonoses: Possible legal implications for veterinarians
Due to the potential severity of human diseases associated with zoonotic parasite infection, there are a number of scenarios where veterinarians could be tangled up in legal action. If a child or other family member becomes infected, veterinarians could face disciplinary action or litigation for failing to diagnose the parasitic disease in the pet, or simply neglecting to recommend parasite preventive measures. Even if parasitic infection is diagnosed in a pet, a veterinarian could still be at risk for failing to advise clients to talk to their physician about possible zoonotic parasite transmission. The best way to protect patients, clients, and your practice is to have a proactive parasite program in place. Start by educating the staff and clients about the risks of zoonotic parasites and the importance of prevention and treatment. Veterinarians should make a point to note client discussions about zoonotic parasites in medical records. It’s also important to record when clients decline fecal tests, diagnostic testing, parasite preventives, or treatment (better yet, keep forms on hand and ask for client signatures to verify their choices). With any pets that pose a risk for zoonotic parasite transmission, pet owners should be advised to seek the care of their physicians. In the spirit of OneHealth, veterinarians should be willing to discuss the situation with the physician, as needed.