Friday, March 19, 2010

How do you become an animal physical therapist?

This is probably the most-asked question I get from students of all ages and from professionals who are considering a career change. The simple and best answer is to go to human physical therapy school first. There, you will learn the science and art of physical therapy, which is very important to have under your belt! Once a PT student, there are continuing education courses and conferences that you will be able to attend in the field of animal physical therapy. You will learn to apply your solid PT knowledge and skills to animals (dogs, cats, and horses primarily) much more easily this way and be more competent in working with the animals over the long haul.

Alternatively, veterinarians and veterinary technicians are also known to do animal rehabilitation. But, their ground education is in medicine and medical skills, such as drawing blood, listening to the heart, etc. So, if you haven't started out yet, it makes A LOT more sense to go to PT school and learn what you really need to learn (yes, even though it is based on humans - it really does ALL apply to animals as well)! It's easier, in my opinion, to learn the animal-related stuff later (like, how to handle the animals, the slightly different anatomy and physiology, the common conditions and injuries that dogs and horses endure, etc). In my experience, I can tell you that there is A LOT more to learn in physical therapy school than the additional knowledge you'll need to learn to apply that PT knowledge to dogs or other pets.

For those of you wanting a shorter career path and you don't mind working along side a PT or veterinarian, I would suggest becoming either a veterinary technician or a physical therapy assistant (both are usually 2 years at the associate's degree level) and then you can help with physical therapy treatments. The law says that only licensed physical therapists and veterinarians can do the evaluations and prescribe the treatments. So, you'll need to think about if you want to be the diagnostician and treatment developer or if you just want to spend your time with animals and don't mind carrying out the treatments that your boss designs.

It's a great field -- very fun and very rewarding -- wishing you all the best as you move toward doing animal physical therapy yourself!


  1. Well, yes from the way you have put it across, the physical therapist work seems interesting!
    Continuing Education

  2. It is interesting and very rewarding to help dogs feel better! Thanks for your comment.

  3. Thank you so much! I was wanting to go to school for vet tech but I am 24 with a family and cannot just up and move to go to vet tech school. So I am opting for physical therapy assisting because I already have a backround in it because I am a massage therapist. I was so ecstatic to learn that as a physical therapist assistant I can have to opportunity to work with animals! It has always been my dream to work with elderly and disabled animals. I am also obtaining my B.S. in animal studies from Humane Society University to give me a better backround in animal knowledge.


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