Therapeutic Options - What is AAEP's Position?

Today, therapeutic options such as acupuncture, chiropractic and physical therapy are experiencing wider clinical use. Although the mechanisms by which these therapeutic options may work are not fully understood, they do offer the potential of expanding the scope of equine practice. The medical nature of many of these procedures makes it extremely important that the veterinary community remain involved.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners has created the following definitions and guidelines that will help the horse owner decide if and which treatment is best for the care of his or her horse.


Acupuncturists use needles, lasers, injections of sterile solutions and implants at certain points of the body to stimulate energy. These points are said to correspond to different organs and bodily functions and when stimulated, help the body's own defenses combat illnesses and aid the body to heal. This is considered a valid modality, but the potential for abuse exists. The AAEP's policy on acupuncture is that it should be regarded as a surgical and/or medical procedure under state veterinary practice acts. It is recommended that a licensed veterinarian with extensive training in acupuncture perform the technique.


Chiropractors manipulate the body in an attempt to correct spinal misalignments. They believe the vertebrae and bones, when not in correct position, can press on nerves and cause pain and dysfunction. Veterinary chiropractic should be considered a medical act and should be performed by a licensed and trained veterinarian or a chiropractor or under the direct referral of a veterinarian.

There are many other therapeutic options, including massage/physical therapy, homeopathy, herbology and naturopathy. The AAEP recommends that all work should be done by a licensed and trained veterinarian or under the referral of a veterinarian. In addition, medical substances which have not undergone the usual rigorous drug approval process should not be utilized in a treatment or training regime.

Before beginning any treatments, these guidelines should be followed:

First, obtain a complete and accurate medical diagnosis from a licensed veterinarian. Second, make sure the treatment options are understood and considered. Third, confirm that the therapy has proven effective in cases with comparable diagnosis. Finally, review the credentials of the individual performing the procedure. Do they have formal training? Are they licensed to practice veterinary medicine? If not, are they working under the direct supervision of a licensed veterinarian? Do they carry appropriate professional liability insurance?

It is important to establish and maintain an open line of communication between the owner, veterinarian and therapist. In addition, follow up with periodic veterinary exams to determine whether the therapy is having a positive impact, and beware of potential abuse or injury with any procedure.

About the Author

American Association of Equine Practitioners

AAEP Mission: To improve the health and welfare of the horse, to further the professional development of its members, and to provide resources and leadership for the benefit of the equine industry. More information:

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