Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966

In the UK, The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 Section 19 restricts the practice of veterinary surgery to veterinary surgeons registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).

Section 19 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act permits complementary therapists to treat animals under the direction of a veterinary surgeon. This means that complementary therapists must gain consent from the animal’s veterinary surgeon before any treatment is started.

The only exception to this rule is for the maintenance treatment of sports animals, for example. As the therapist is not treating a specific condition or problem, it isn’t deemed necessary to obtain veterinary consent first. However, wellpethub still encourages therapists to work closely with all patients’ vets to build a relationship based on mutual respect.

Excerpt from the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 Section 19


19.15 Both veterinary surgeons and farriers are involved in the treatment of horses’ feet. While veterinary surgeons are exempt from the restrictions in the Farriers Registration Acts 1975 and 1977, farriers are not exempt from the restrictions in the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, and may not carry out procedures deemed to be acts of veterinary surgery.

19.16 There is no clear demarcation line between veterinary surgeons and farriers in the exercise of their professional responsibilities, so that much depends on individuals and the relationship between them. Decisions as to whether a particular procedure should be performed by one or the other are a matter for consultation and cooperation. Veterinary surgeons should make every effort personally to discuss cases with farriers.

19.17 Farriery consists of trimming and balancing the equine hoof prior to and for the fitting of conventional or surgical shoes, and where a veterinary surgeon requires particular work from a farrier, this should be specified in personal contact between them.

19.18 A farrier must not normally penetrate sensitive structures, cause unnatural stress to the animal, make a diagnosis or administer drugs. If he feels that either the veterinary surgeon is treating the animal incorrectly, or that a further condition is present requiring treatment, he should notify the veterinary surgeon or advise the owner to call in the veterinary surgeon. If a veterinary surgeon considers that a farrier’s work is inadequate he should contact the farrier directly. Neither should make detrimental comments about the work of the other unless in the course of a formal complaint to their regulatory bodies: the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the Farriers Registration Council.

Physiotherapy, Osteopathic Therapy and Chiropractic Therapy

19.19 Musculoskeletal therapists are part of the vet-led team. Animals cared for or treated by musculoskeletal therapists must be registered with a veterinary surgeon. Musculoskeletal therapists carry out a range of manipulative therapies, including physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropractic therapy.

19.20 As per the Veterinary Surgeons (Exemptions) Order 2015 (which revokes the Veterinary Surgery (Exemptions) Order 1962) remedial treatment by ‘physiotherapy’ requires delegation by a veterinary surgeon who has first examined the animal. The Order allows the treatment of an animal by physiotherapy if the following conditions are satisfied:

(1) the first condition is that the person providing the treatment is aged 18 or over

(2) the second condition is that the person is acting under the direction of a qualified person who—

(a) has examined the animal, and

(b) has prescribed the treatment of the animal by physiotherapy.

19.21 The Order specifies that a qualified person “means a person who is registered in the Register of Veterinary Surgeons or the Supplementary Veterinary Register”.

19.22 ‘Physiotherapy’ is interpreted as including all kinds of manipulative therapy. It therefore includes osteopathy and chiropractic but would not, for example, include acupuncture or aromatherapy. It is up to the professional judgement of the veterinary surgeon to determine whether and when a clinical examination should be repeated before musculoskeletal treatment is continued.

19.23 The delegating veterinary surgeon should ensure, before delegation, that they are confident that the musculoskeletal therapist is appropriately qualified and competent; indicators can include membership of a voluntary register with associated standards of education and conduct, supported by a disciplinary process. As the RCVS does not regulate musculoskeletal therapists it cannot recommend specific voluntary registers.

19.24 Musculoskeletal maintenance care for a healthy animal, for instance massage, does not require delegation by a veterinary surgeon. However, the animal must still be registered with a veterinary surgeon. Maintenance should cease and the owner of the animal should be asked to take their animal to a veterinary surgeon for clinical examination at the first sign that there may be any underlying injury, disease or pathology. Alternatively, the musculoskeletal therapist may ask the client for formal consent to disclose any concerns to the veterinary surgeon that has their animal under their care.

Other complementary therapy

19.25 It is illegal, in terms of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, for non-veterinary surgeons, however qualified in the human field, to treat animals. All forms of complementary therapy that involve acts or the practise of veterinary surgery must be undertaken by a veterinary surgeon, subject to any exemption in the Act. At the same time, it is incumbent on veterinary surgeons offering any complementary therapy to ensure that they are adequately trained in its application.