Complementary and alternative veterinary medicine


Ratification Date: 27 Jul 2012

Position statement

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) recommends that veterinarians make informed and judicious decisions regarding the use of complementary and alternative veterinary medicine (CAVM) modalities. The AVA recognises the interest in and use of CAVM by some members. The primary objective in veterinary medicine is patient welfare and to ’first do no harm’. Ideally, veterinary medicine is effective, safe, proven and holistic in terms of the consideration of all aspects of the animal patient in the context of its environment and individual circumstances. Practices and philosophies that are ineffective or unsafe should be discarded.

Treatment programs are developed within the client–veterinarian–patient relationship with informed consent, which is recorded in the patient notes.

The AVA believes that all veterinary medicines, including CAVM, are to be held to the same standards. Claims for safety and efficacy ultimately should be proven by the scientific method and evidence-based principles. Circumstances commonly require that veterinarians extrapolate information when formulating a course of therapy, but veterinarians should exercise caution in such circumstances.


This position statement does not attempt to determine or describe the relative value of the individual CAVM modalities.

The theoretical basis and techniques of CAVM may be divergent from veterinary medicine routinely taught in Australian university veterinary science courses or may differ from current scientific knowledge.

The quality of studies, evidence and reports pertaining to CAVM varies and therefore a veterinarian must critically evaluate the literature and other sources of current information. Practitioners using CAVM are encouraged to seek evidence-based research to establish proof of safety and efficacy.


A veterinarian should examine an animal and establish a preliminary diagnosis before any treatment is initiated. A diagnosis should be based on sound, accepted principles of veterinary medicine.

All treatment options should be offered and discussed with the owner or authorised agent prior to selection of a proven treatment modality.

Following advice from their veterinarian, clients will often choose a medical course of action. Recommendations for effective and safe care should be based on available scientific knowledge and the medical judgment of the veterinarian.

Veterinarians should be aware that animal nutritional supplements and botanicals typically are often not subject to pre-marketing evaluation by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) for purity, safety or efficacy and may contain active pharmacologic agents or unknown substances.

Users of CAVM should take into consideration registration, labelling requirements and also consider maximum residue limits (MRLs) in production animals. State and territory laws must be understood and adhered to by veterinarians in relation to CAVM.

If a human health hazard is anticipated in the course of a disease or as a result of therapy, it should be made known to the client.

Date of ratification by AVA Board 27 July 2012