Training in the field of animal osteopathy
Are you considering a career in animal osteopathy? If so, we hope this article will give you the information you need.
DO YOU HAVE TO DO A COURSE IN HUMAN OSTEOPATHY TO BECOME AN ANIMAL OSTEOPATH?
In the UK, the title Osteopath is protected by law, and to treat humans, with osteopathy you must be registered with the GOsC (General Osteopathic Council). For this reason, it has been assumed for many years, that those wishing to treat animals under the title Animal Osteopath, must first train at a recognised university to become a human osteopath. More recently, however, the Register of Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioners (RAMP) has challenged this statement, backed by the support of a barrister. The question was raised as to whether the laws surrounding osteopathy, remain intact where the patient in question is an animal, and where the practitioner uses a prefix such as Animal or Veterinary in conjunction with osteopath or osteopathy.
Barrister advice confirmed (RAMP informed us) that technically there is no current jurisdiction over animal osteopathy where the practitioner is properly trained and working safely and with the boundaries of their scope of practice. However, as you will see from our news feed, this ongoing debate is likely to conclude over the next 12-18 months, because of ongoing discussions between DEFRA, RCVS, RAMP and GOsC. This could see many positive changes for those in animal practice, but it is quite unsettling for practitioners and prospective students, who don’t know what is legally right or wrong. As a result, Association of Animal Osteopaths takes the standpoint that practitioners should only use the title Animal Osteopath, where they have the legal right to do so. This varies depending on the country in which the practitioners works. Some of our members come from countries where even human osteopathy isn’t recognised, so as a global Association, we cannot stipulate categorically that one cannot use the title without human training. However, what AAO absolutely supports is that practitioners in the UK, who are not human trained, should use instead a title such as Animal Manual Therapist. AAO remains in constant communication with the Institute of Osteopathy (iO), General Osteopathic Council (GOsC) and RAMP and will update readers regularly with any updates, via our news feed.
At this time, the AAO advises any practitioner seeking to train in animal osteopathy (and practice in the UK), to be fully aware of this grey area and the ever-changing landscape, and until such times as this matter has been resolved, the AAO cannot endorse the use of the terms Osteopath or Osteopathy by anyone other than a non-human trained osteopath. Whether or not a prefix has been applied.
WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO I NEED TO TRAIN AS A HUMAN OSTEOPATH IN THE UK?
In order to become a human osteopath, you need to complete a degree in osteopathy (typically, an M.Ost.). This varies between four and five years depending on your chosen path of study. Entry requirements vary, but a basic standard of 5 GCSE passes (grades A-C) and BCC (or above) at A level (including 2 science subjects – Biology, Chemistry, Physical Education, Physics, Psychology, Mathematics, Sport Science as sciences). Osteopathic teaching establishments often provide a summer science course or ‘top-up’ course for students who do not fulfil these criteria but have other qualifications at an appropriate level.
IS ANIMAL OSTEOPATHY A REGULATED PROFESSION?
The title ‘osteopath’ is protected by law. In the UK it is against the law for anyone to call themselves an osteopath unless they are registered with the GOsC. This regulatory body sets and promotes high standards of competency, conduct and safety for human osteopaths who work in the UK. However, as per the statement at the start of this article, GOsC was not set-up to protect animals nor regulate animal osteopathy, but it can be confirmed that any human osteopath who treats animals is still bound by the Osteopathic Practice Standards, and as such, must work within their scope of practice and the boundaries of their skill set. They must also be suitably insured and act professionally at all times.
WHAT TRAINING DO I NEED TO BECOME AN ANIMAL OSTEOPATH?
There are a number of courses that provide training in animal osteopathy in the UK. These range from canine and equine blended (online with consolidated practical classes) courses run by Animal Osteopathy International, (which are validated by the European School of Osteopathy), through to a PG Cert. Animal Osteopathy validated by University College of Osteopathy and a Master’s degree course run in conjunction with Mc Timoney Chiropractic.
If you are a course provider and wish to include your course on this page, please do write into us and we will review and add it as appropriate.
There are many courses worldwide that allude to teaching animal osteopathy, but there is such variation in quality, content, safety and regulation that we felt it outside the remit of this article to discuss them. What AAO would advise however, is that anyone interested in training, should ensure that the school to which they apply, offers a well-rounded training in equine, canine or animal osteopathy. That they are explicit with their indicative content, (so that you know exactly what you will learn) and that you are given hands-on direction and case studies to complete as part of your training.
Please note that the AAO does not endorse any specific course but would certainly discourage any human osteopath from treating animals until they are fully and suitably trained. Failure to do so, is actually in breach of the OPS, because you are working outside your scope of practice. Animals are not the same as humans and treating them without comprehensive knowledge of their functional anatomy and associated pathologies, is nothing short of negligent.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF BECOMING A QUALIFIED Human and ANIMAL OSTEOPATH?
There are several different ways in which a two-pronged approach can benefit both you and your customers. Take for example the horse/rider combination, where one form frequently influences the other. Here, an osteopath can evaluate both horse and rider to ascertain the biomechanical influences at play, thus eradicating the need for frequent return visits to a horse, whose actual problem is based in poor rider mechanics.
One could also consider that having a human and animal practice offers two routes to income. During the cold, wet months of winter, when days are short and some equine patients require less care, you may be very glad of a warm human clinic room where patients come to you. Having said that, those in small animal practice often work within a veterinary environment and this is much closer to the workings of a human practice, so it depends which route you take.
As a member of the General Osteopathic Council, you demonstrate that you are suitably qualified to carry out osteopathy on the general public. This signifies that you work professionally, using critical analysis and understand the need for a working hypothesis before creating a treatment plan for your patient.
Also, having a qualification in animal osteopathy demonstrates to owners that you care about the service you provide. For many years, animal osteopaths could only acquire skills through work experience and hours of hands-on practice, but the educational setting is changing dramatically, and more and more osteopaths are looking to acquire a formal qualification to ensure a level of skill. All three of the providers listed above, produce courses that can be used to support entry onto the Register of Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioners (depending on your background)
To conclude this article, we would like to remind readers that it is an offence for any person (other than the owner) to treat an animal, unless veterinary consent and/or referral has been achieved. This should be acquired by the osteopath – not the owner – and acts to ensure that the animal is suitable for osteopathic treatment. If you approach a practitioner who does not ask for such consent, please let the Association of Animal Osteopaths know, as such therapists are breaking the law and need to be reported to the necessary regulator. Practicing in this way is unsafe and is risking the health of your animal.
We hope that you have found this information useful. If you wish to learn more about animal osteopathy, please look around our website: https://associationofanimalosteopaths.com or contact us directly on firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was written by the AAO, for its own readers and those of CAM4Animals