Section 19 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 prevents any non-veterinary surgeon, however qualified, from treating an animal without the prior written consent of a veterinary surgeon. This includes all forms of complementary therapy.
Clause 19.19 of the Act refers to The Veterinary Surgery (Exemptions) Order 1962, which allows treatment of animals by physiotherapy under the provision that the animal has first been examined by a veterinary surgeon, who has, in turn, decided that the animal should be treated by physiotherapy under his/her direction. Clause 19.20 defines ‘Physiotherapy’ as ‘…all kinds of manipulative therapy. It therefore includes osteopathy and chiropractic…’(Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, n.d.). Massage is a manipulative therapy, meaning that it can be performed by a suitably qualified individual, with veterinary consent.
The Act and Exemption Order together protect animals from any treatment by unqualified persons. They ensure that receiving manipulative therapy is in the best interest of the animal, for their relevant condition and that they show no signs of contraindications, although the therapist must also check for any before commencement of treatment.
A therapist who treats an animal without prior written consent from a veterinary surgeon is doing so unlawfully and is at risk of prosecution. Also, they could work on an animal that massage may not be suitable for other medical reasons.