CVMA | Documents | Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine – Position Statement

Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine – Position Statement

November 21, 2012



The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) holds that the treatment of animals using complementary and/or alternative therapies and modalities constitutes the practice of veterinary medicine. 

The CVMA recommends that complementary or alternative veterinary medicine (CAVM) be subject to the same level of evidence-based rigour as conventional veterinary medicine. 

The CVMA holds that the practice of CAVM must be provided within the context of a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR). 

The benefits of a CAVM therapy or modality must substantially outweigh the potential risks. 

Veterinarians need to have access to scientifically valid information on CAVM therapies and modalities so they can be critically evaluated. This ensures that veterinarians can effectively advise their clients on the use of CAVM and how it may integrate with conventional diagnostic and therapeutic options. 

Finally, the CVMA holds that veterinarians must ensure they have the requisite skills and knowledge for any therapy or modality they may consider using (note Background # 4). 


  1. Complementary and alternative veterinary medicine (CAVM) is defined as a large and diverse set of systems of diagnosis, treatment, and prevention based on philosophies and techniques other than those used in conventional veterinary medicine. These practices may be described as complementary or alternative. “Alternative medicine” exists as a body separate from, and as a replacement for, conventional veterinary medicine. “Complementary medicine” (or “integrative medicine”) refers to the use of alternative together with conventional veterinary medicine.
  2. The quality of studies and reports pertaining to CAVM varies. The CVMA encourages veterinarians to strive to use those therapies and modalities that offer the best balance between risk, benefit, and level of scientific evidence. Veterinarians are uniquely positioned to advise clients on the risks of therapies and the evidence to support the benefit of their use.  Safety and efficacy of CAVM therapies and their interface with conventional veterinary medical practice should continue to be researched. 
  3. The CVMA encourages veterinarians who practice CAVM to clearly explain the differences between CAVM and conventional veterinary medicine when presenting the treatment options available to their clients.  
  4. The CVMA does not currently recognize specialist status or certificates other than those awarded by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) American Board of Veterinary Specialties (ABVS). The CVMA supports the rigorous criteria imposed by the ABVS for distinct and identifiable specialties of veterinary medicine whereby diplomates hold a common basis of knowledge based on a standardized educational goals and examinations. Currently no ABVS-recognized veterinary specialty organizations in CAVM exist. The CVMA supports the concept of ABVS certification for those CAVM therapies and modalities that are based on sound scientific evidence as to their safety and efficacy.
  5. The CVMA recognizes that provincial veterinary regulatory authorities license veterinarians in Canada and thus regulate the practice of veterinary medicine and determine: 

a) Which procedures constitute the practice of veterinary medicine?

b) What constitutes “veterinary supervision” and the limits of supervision as it pertains to any given therapy, including CAVM and how a non-veterinarian(s) may or may not be involved in a CAVM therapy?

c) The requirement to obtain owner consent prior to initiating any treatment, including a CAVM therapy or modality.


  1. National Institutes of Health National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (Home page on the Internet). Available from: Last accessed December 11, 2012.
  2. Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. CVMA Surgical Procedures Position Statement. Ottawa, Ontario. Revised November, 2009.
  3. Haynes RB, Devereux PJ, Guyatte GH. Clinical expertise in the era of evidence-based medicine and patient choice. Evid Based Med 2002;7:36-38.
  4. Sackett DL, Rosenberg WMC, Muir Gray JA, Haynes RB, Richardson WS. Evidence based medicine: What it is and what it isn’t. BMJ 1996;312:71-72.

(Revised November 2012)