It is vital for all qualified practitioners to belonging to a register of professionals following the increase in unqualified therapists offering treatment to animals, according to The Animal Health Professions Register (AHPR).

This issue was raised by qualified animal health paraprofessionals after becoming aware of therapy centres and individuals prescribing treatments/remedial exercise programmes for animals without holding appropriate qualifications, nor having a veterinary referral to carryout such treatments.

The musculoskeletal therapy disciplines covered include animal / veterinary physiotherapy, chiropractic and manipulation, animal sports therapy and massage, and animal hydrotherapy. Any treatment should be carried out by a qualified professional, following a veterinary referral, with veterinary permission, or with the knowledge of the consulting veterinary surgeon, says the AHPR.

Qualified practitioners and vets share the AHPR’s concerns about the impact of unqualified treatments on equine safety and welfare as well as that of the owners who are paying for treatment for their pets by an unqualified person. At the very least these treatments may be ineffective and therefore a waste of money, at worst, they may be detrimental to health and wellbeing, and ultimately welfare, they warned.

Sarah Keith is an AHPR board member who holds an MSc in Veterinary Physiotherapy from Harper Adams University.

“This issue is becoming increasingly more troubling to myself and my colleagues,” she said. “There are examples of practitioners in both small animal and equine therapy, performing veterinary physiotherapy treatments/prescribing remedial exercise programmes without holding the appropriate qualifications nor having a veterinary referral.

“We feel it is not appropriate for someone to offer any kind of remedial exercise funless they have the appropriate qualifications.

“At present, the title ‘veterinary physiotherapist’ is not protected in law, and so anyone is able to use it (or a variation of) to refer to themselves regardless of their qualifications. It is possible to ‘qualify’ as an equine massage therapist after just one week’s worth of training.

“I personally end up seeing a lot of horses that come to me for ongoing issues that have not been resolved nor referred on to a vet by the previous inappropriately qualified or unqualified therapist, either because they do not understand their scope of practice, and or don’t have the relevant training to be able to recognise the requirement for onward referral”.

All AHPR registrants have achieved an industry-recognised appropriate standard of training through externally accredited courses, comply with Continuing Professional Development requirements and hold full, valid professional indemnity insurance as required by the wider industry.

At present, there is no legal requirement for a person to be on one of the two voluntary registers, and the AHPR believes this shows a great deal of accountability from its registrants, who want to see industry standards raised.

“In all professions there are increased demand for animal owners looking for supportive treatments to maintain the wellbeing and health issues of their animals,” said Liz Troman MSc RVN, Chair of the AHPR. “It is even more important in today’s world that standards are upheld and people use recognised professionals to deliver their needs.”

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