Our friends at the K9 Massage Guild have written this great article we would like to share with you. With the increase in ‘alternative therapies’ for our pets it is really important to use properly trained professionals, you really do owe it to your dog or cat to use a trained therapist and make sure you always ask for veterinary consent

The importance of obtaining veterinary consent

dog_vetAs a Therapist one of the most common questions I am asked is “why do I need veterinary consent before my dog can receive massage?”

In a nutshell it is illegal for any person to carry out a manipulative therapy on any pet without a signed consent form from their vet.

The veterinary medicine and healthcare field works entirely differently to that of the human medicine field. It is therefore essential that as a Canine Massage Therapist I understand the importance and the implications of the Veterinary Acts and adhere to them. By working professionally alongside your Vet to discuss and inform them of any findings and compare information, we can ensure that any animal in therapy receives optimal care and assistance with their rehabilitation.


This brings me on to contraindications to massage.

A contraindication is a situation where a drug, treatment or surgery should not be taken/ carried out at that particular time or requires further veterinary advice prior to treatment being given. Massage therefore is contraindicated when it could be harmful. A contraindication can be permanent, temporary or specific to one area.

There are two types of contraindication:

Relative – this is where caution should be used but can be carried out if the benefit outweighs the risk

Absolute – the treatment or drug could cause a life threatening situation and should not be carried out at this time

Contraindications to massage include:

  • Cancer
  • High temperature – over 104F or 39.5C
  • Heat stroke
  • Open wounds
  • Broken or fractured bones
  • Epilepsy
  • Suffering from shock

So as you can appreciate this is another important reason for obtaining veterinary consent before massage proceeds.

Legal implications

Any person working with animals has a responsibility to provide the most appropriate treatment for them in a caring and respectful manner, and it is important that they keep up to date with their skills and knowledge. They should understand their legal obligations and not cause the animal to suffer in any way, by only providing necessary pain relief and treatment to ensure the animal’s welfare. They should ensure that they provide full verbal and, if necessary, written information to the owner about the animal’s case including treatment, costs and emergency arrangements.

In essence duty of care is paramount across all parties involved in the welfare of animals.

There are two Acts that should be considered by a person who will be carrying out any kind of work on your pet and they provide clear explanations as to who may diagnose and treat animals:

Veterinary Surgery (Exemptions) Order 1962

Under the Veterinary Surgery (Exemptions) Order 1962 an animal may be treated by physiotherapy (referring to manipulative therapies – for example massage, chiropractic, osteopathy and hydrotherapy) provided the animal has been seen by a Vet who has made a diagnosis and then referred it to the Therapist.

Alternatively if you know of a Therapist who is trained in manipulative therapies you can ask your Vet to refer your pet for treatment. If the Vet feels that it would be beneficial and/ or appropriate they can refer your pet for treatment by providing the Therapist with signed consent.

Without veterinary consent it is illegal to proceed with therapy and both you and the Therapist could be prosecuted.

Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966

To practise veterinary surgery on an animal other than your own (this relates to minor medical treatment) without veterinary consent is illegal. The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 provides, subject to a number of exceptions, that only registered members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons may practise veterinary surgery. This includes medical or surgical treatment, tests, operations, diagnosis and advice. With regards to complementary therapies only manipulative therapies can be carried out by a trained professional other than a vet provided that a vet has given his/her approval. This excludes Aromatherapy, Homeopathy and Acupuncture, the latter of which can only be carried out by a veterinary professional who is fully trained in these treatments.

We should also look at the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which replaced the Protection of Animals Act 1911. Under Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 it states that you must take all reasonable steps to ensure that you meet the following provisions of your dog:

  • A suitable environment
  • A suitable diet
  • The ability to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • Any need it has to be housed with, or apart from, other animals
  • To be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

xray_vetWhen a dog becomes ill it is generally the owner who first notices the change in them. A responsible dog owner will contact their vet to get them checked over and the relevant treatment provided. A dog is totally dependent on those around them – they can’t tell you where they are hurting, how they are feeling, or if they generally feel unwell, so it is so important that the owner understands and knows when their pet is not it’s normal self.

If you, as the owner, did not seek veterinary advice when your animal was sick or injured you could be prosecuted for causing unnecessary suffering. If you attempted to treat a sick or injured animal yourself and the animal suffered more because it was not given proper veterinary care you could also be prosecuted. Obviously in an emergency you would probably do what you could to make the animal as comfortable as possible whilst waiting to see a vet but it is imperative that a vet is consulted when an animal becomes unwell or is injured. If your animal became sick or unwell and you consulted someone who was not a vet to treat your animal then both parties could be prosecuted if the animal is subject to unnecessary suffering. It is vitally important that any person treating animals has full insurance (without which they are unlikely to be properly trained).

Unfortunately there are many Therapists who are practising illegally. They don’t obtain veterinary consent, they don’t have insurance and worst of all they have not been adequately trained in their profession.

Would you really want someone with no experience or adequate training coming anywhere near your beloved pet? I know I wouldn’t!

A professional and fully trained Therapist won’t mind you asking them about their training and qualifications – infact they would probably love to tell you all about it. Nor will they mind you asking to see proof of insurance or if they are a member of a professional body.

Never be afraid to ask questions to ensure peace of mind that the Therapist you have chosen is following the correct protocol, and most importantly, that they have the welfare of your pet as top priority.

I hope this article has answered some of your questions and you now understand why veterinary consent is so important.

If you are in any doubt about finding a fully trained and reputable Canine Massage Therapist for your dog then go to http://www.k9-massageguild.co.uk/Therapist-register/ to find your local Therapist.

Author: Carol Collins