Finding a vet or practitioner
In the UK, we are used to choosing to use complementary and alternative modalities without too many restrictions e.g. we choose to go for a massage, find someone we like, book it and go.
For our animals, the situation is different. We do have overall responsibility for our animals but there are restrictions. To continue with the massage example, we can find a therapist we like but to take our dog for a session, we need to get permission from the veterinary practice the animal is registered at.
The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966
Under the terms of the act, it is illegal for anyone other than an RCVS-registered Veterinary Surgeon to prescribe homeopathy and a variety of other therapies* for animals or to diagnose or give advice based upon a diagnosis.
*This includes but is not limited to homeopathy, acupuncture, herbal medicine and aromatherapy.
This law applies even if no charge is made for the service but does not apply to owners who treat their own animals.
Exceptions are made for those supplying manipulative therapies (e.g. massage, chiropractic, osteopathy, physiotherapy), working under veterinary supervision, so long as no prescription is supplied or offered.
Getting a referral to a holistic veterinary surgeon
If you would like to seek the help of a holistic veterinary surgeon then there are two ways to go about it.
The best way is to ask for a referral. This means you can ask your vet to refer you to a holistic vet in the area, either that they know, or that you have found and would like to see. This way of doing it means your regular vet feels more involved in the whole process and can lead to a better relationship between you, them, and your holistic vet. They would then organise the referral. Some vets are not familiar with holistic medicine or may not wish to refer you.
The second way is to effectively self-refer. This is similar to seeking a second opinion from another vet about a certain condition. You contact the holistic vet that you would like to see to organise an appointment, and they then request your pet’s full history from your regular vet and effectively take over the referral process. Your regular vet will need to confirm with you that you are happy for the history to be sent over, so you can either wait for this to happen, or call them to let them know that you are happy with the information exchange and will be going ahead with the referral.
Don’t forget that it is you as the owner who gets to decide who you take your pet to see (or who you get to come and see your horse or livestock), whether holistic or conventional.
Remember too that all holistic vets are primarily veterinary surgeons, just like conventional vets, who have undergone additional training so they can provide a broader service to you.
It is essential that there is communication between your regular and holistic vets to ensure your pet always receives the best care.
“…It’s almost incomprehensible for me having seen my boy so close to what I feared was the end, only now to see a happy dog with such zest for life. The people who had commented previously have since told me they can’t believe how healthy he looks, that he doesn’t look like an ‘old man’ anymore. Others are in disbelief when I say he’s almost 10… ‘But he looks so young and healthy! …”
Getting a referral to a specialist (non-veterinary surgeon) practitioner
For example, the previously mentioned canine massage therapist. This person is not a veterinary surgeon but is a specialist in his or her field and will be registered and insured. The options are the same – you either get a referral from your own vet or you find a suitable qualified specialist and then ask for a referral.
Some practitioners have a form that they ask your vet to fill out or they may ask for your vet to email your animal’s records to them. Talk to your practitioner and find out how they handle a referral, then speak to your vet to arrange this. Usually, it is as simple as filling out a form or emailing records across.
It is usual for the referred vet or practitioner to drop the primary, or referring, vet an email or phone call to update them on treatment. If several different therapists are involved (for example, if caring for an elderly or rehabilitating animal) then there will often be communication between all of them.
“David (the owner) and I are delighted about the effect that massage therapy has had on Ky (a 13 year old Samoyed with multiple arthritic joints). The addition of regular massage sessions has allowed me to withdraw one drug (Tramadol) from his therapeutic regime, and maintain the same levels of comfort and mobility. This is a fantastic success story for massage.”
How CAM4animals can help
When you start looking for other options it can be a bit of a minefield. Our aim with this website is to make the process easier for you to find the information and the practitioner you need – to help give you informed choice about your animal’s healthcare.
Our ‘Modalities and Practitioners‘ page has brief information about a (growing) range of modalities and links to the professional bodies so you can find a practitioner near you.