CVMA | Documents | Veterinary Surgical Procedures – Position Statement

Veterinary Surgical Procedures – Position Statement

July 16, 2014


“The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) holds that a veterinary surgical procedure (i.e., ‘Surgery’) must be performed by a licensed veterinarian. Surgery is a medical procedure that involves the invasion, excision and/or extraction of the tissue of a living animal through operative manual and instrumental techniques developed for such a purpose or purposes thereby producing permanent alteration of physical and/or physiological functions.”


1.  Surgery on an animal constitutes the practice of veterinary medicine and thus requires extensive knowledge of anatomy, physiology, pathology, medicine and animal welfare; the appropriate use of aseptic technique and the overall management of the animal’s health and well-being. A licensed veterinarian is positioned to understand these requirements.

2. The management of pain or distress that may occur before, during and following surgery is integral to the success of the procedure and requires the appropriate use of anesthetics and analgesics available in the practice of veterinary medicine.

3. The CVMA recognizes that provincial veterinary regulatory authorities license veterinarians in Canada and thus regulate the practice of veterinary surgery and determine:

a) What constitutes an act of veterinary surgery;

b) What constitutes “veterinary supervision” and the limits of supervision as it pertains to any given surgical procedure and how a non-veterinarian(s) may or may not be involved in a surgical procedure;

c) When and which surgical procedures person(s) other than a licensed veterinarian may perform.

4. The CVMA recognizes and supports the overseeing bodies (eg. Canadian Council on Animal Care) that specify the standards and procedures required in performing surgical procedures on animals used for scientific purposes (1,2).

5. The CVMA endorses the concept that veterinarians have input through a provincially defined and mandated Veterinary-Client-Patient Relationship any time surgical procedures are considered or planned on animals, including select procedures that are performed by livestock-producer clients.


  1. Olfert ED, Cross BM, McWilliam AA, eds.  Guide to the Care and Use of Experimental Animals. 2nd ed. Vol.1. Canadian Council on Animal Care, 1993.
  2. Turner PV. The CALAM/ACMAL Standards of Veterinary Care and Laboratory Animal Welfare.  Can Vet J 2008;49:86-88.


The CVMA Position Statement was developed through:

  • Consultation with CVMA Members as “Member Feedback” and with provincial veterinary regulatory authorities;
  • Research and review of sources such as:
    • The Canadian Animal Welfare Act
    • The Animal Welfare Act and the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (United States Department of Agriculture).
    • Various medical dictionaries and texts.
    • American Veterinary Medical Association public information Web site.
    • National Research Council.
    • Various provincial and state veterinary college guidelines and/or positions.

(Revised July 2014)