The AAO works tirelessly toward a better future for animal osteopathy and the profession as a whole. Over the years animal osteopathy has gone from strength to strength, but the profession is changing and so the AAO was created to ensure that the profession has a strong and competent Association to support the future.

The History of the AAO

The Society of Osteopaths in Animal Practice (SOAP) was founded in 2004, after discussions with the General Osteopathic Council outlined a need for support for osteopaths wishing to study/work in this specialist field of osteopathy. In 2015, the Association of Animal Osteopaths developed in order to support the needs of the profession in the current changing political and legal climate. However, as an interest for animal osteopathy has grown and courses are popping up in every country, the AAO decided that a more global approach would be necessary, as many UK students, end up practicing abroad. Then discovering that they had no Association upon which to lean. 

The AAO aims to work toward better educational offerings for osteopaths and also increased visibility for the profession through the building of professional bridges and national awareness. Today, there are Masters programmes and postgraduate courses run around the world to help those wishing to become animal osteopaths/animal functional therapists. This demonstrates a significant change in the market and a need for an Association that can help to shape the landscape.

AAO supports and encourages members to work only within their Scope of Practice and requests that all members comply with our Code of Practice. This ensures to the best of our ability that all animals treated by an animal osteopath (who are members of the AAO) are cared for appropriately and professionally.

The AAO is run by a team of animal osteopaths who work on a purely voluntary basis and some have been with the Association since SOAP’s inception, so they fully understand the dynamics of the profession. The intention of the Association is to bring together animal osteopaths/functional therapists around the globe, so that we can support the profession moving forward, whilst also ensuring that standards are created and upheld.

What projects does the AAO undertake?

  • Maintaining a presence within the Institute of Osteopathy via a special interest group.
  • Communicating with the GOsC (UK) and other osteopathic associations to ensure both parties are aware of changes and challenges.
  • Working with educational establishments and CPD providers to give our readers a choice.
  • Working closely with RAMP (a UK voluntary register for animal practitioners), to build strong relationships with other statutory regulated professionals who branch out into animal practice.
  • An ever growing network of connections, to support animal osteopaths around the world, not just in the UK
  • Increasing the visibility of animal osteopathy around the world, such that professionals and the vernal public are more aware and properly informed. 
  • Supporting and encouraging research within the field of animal osteopathy 

 What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy uses a range of techniques to help influence the natural healing process of the body. Using the muscular-skeletal system to affect the function of the tissues, osteopathy helps to improve mobility, flexibility, circulation and general health. Some osteopaths may also give exercises to strengthen an area after injury or to aid general fitness and advise referrals to other professionals,  if the problem appears to be behavioural, nutritional or pathological in nature.

Osteopathy - titles and appropriate usage

Whilst the GOsC does not directly regulate animal osteopathy, practitioners in the UK, who call themselves ‘Animal Osteopaths’, must be registered with the General Osteopathic Council, because they use the term “Osteopath” within their title. In the UK this title is a protected by law under the Osteopaths Act 1993. This means that anyone pertaining to be an Osteopath should manage themselves professionally and responsibly at all times.

The title ‘osteopath’ is protected by law. It is against the law for anyone to call themselves an osteopath unless they are registered with the GOsC, which sets and promotes high standards of competency, conduct and safety. We can, and do, prosecute individuals who practise as osteopaths when they are not on the GOsC Register. From the GOsC website 2013. 

Animal Osteopathy - for owners - What to expect

In 2021, the UK law changed and animal osteopaths may now treat non-clinical cases without veterinary referral. For example, for preventative or competition care. However, if the osteopath before or after assessment, realises that the animal is unwell or has an underlying condition or pathology, the practitioner must inform the veterinary surgeon immediately, and must not treat until the animal has been evaluated by their vet. Where the animal has an underlying condition or pathology, consent must be acquired from the vet. After consent has been given, your osteopath, may continue with assessment and treatment, but should keep your veterinarian informed.

In either case, sessions will normally consist of a consultation (including the taking of the animal’s medical and training history), an active and passive examination and a treatment based on the working hypothesis that your osteopath concludes. The amount of treatment required will vary from patient-to-patient and can only be confirmed by the osteopath who has fully evaluated the animal. The same applies to the length of each session, as all animals are different and some require more treatment than others. Speak to your chosen osteopath for more specific information.

How do I become an animal osteopath?

At present, in the UK, NZ and Denmark, one can only use the title Osteopath (with or without the prefix “animal”), if you have trained as an osteopath (for humans) and registered with the appropriate governing body. Once registered, you would be expected to take postgraduate studies in animal osteopathy and other relevant veterinary subjects to work with animals.

It is however, possible to train in osteopathic techniques for animals, with some educational establishments, but you may not be able to advertise yourself as an animal osteopath, for the reasons stated above. In these cases, graduates are advised to use the term Equine/Canine Functional Practitioner or Manual Therapist [for animals], so that the general public is clear about your qualifications and skills. Misrepresentation is not only unprofessional but could lead to prosecution in some countries, so do check the laws and regulations in your own state or country before you use titles in your marketing.

At this time, in many countries, there is no required standard to become an animal osteopath, but the AAO would always recommend a provider who offers well-rounded clinical training which includes many of the following baseline subjects:

  • Osteopathic Principles and Concepts;
  • Case history analysis, 
  • Osteopathic evaluation of the whole, 
  • Health and Safety, 
  • Professional communications and documentation, 
  • Anatomy (arthrology, osteology, myology),
  • Common orthopaedic / pathological conditions (as relevant to small/large animal), 
  • Active examinations, 
  • Passive assessment,
  • General health screening, 
  • Neurology and neurological testing,
  • Special osteopathic tests, 
  • How to create a working hypothesis, 
  • A wide range of treatment techniques, which may include but is not limited to: articulation, soft tissue, stretching, balanced ligamentous tension, visceral, cranio-sacral and mobilisations. 
  • When to refer – working with other professionals, 
  • Management plans & rehab,

For more information, please go to the AO Training Info. tab.