Animals are susceptible to the same injuries, pain and chronic conditions as humans as they age. Animal physical therapists are licensed professionals dedicated to the rehabilitation of animals that need to be treated for physical conditions such as the pain associated with chronic arthritis and mobility issues associated with the healing of a previously broken limb. Treatment often includes massage therapy. Becoming an animal physical therapist requires specific training as well as hands-on experience. According to Job Monkey, the median salary for a veterinary physical therapist with four years of experience under her belt is $36,000, while the starting salary for animal assisted therapists ranges from $25,000 to $28,000.
Complete a course of academic study in physical therapy in order to learn the science behind the different techniques you will eventually use as you help to rehabilitate animals. Once you know how to work on humans, you can take special courses that will teach you how to parlay your skills into working with animals.
Decide if you want to use your skills solely to help a particular type of animal, such as dogs or horses, recover from injury or other physical ailments. Educational institutions including the Canine Rehabilitation Institute in Florida offers courses to become a certified canine rehabilitation therapist, while the Animal Rehabilitation Institute, also in Florida, provides training to receive Equine Massage Therapy Certification.
Find out what the state you intend to work in requires in terms of obtaining a license to practice as an animal physical therapist and obtain that credential. According to New England Physical Therapy for Animals, it is illegal to perform physical therapy on animals without a license.
Seek out opportunities to volunteer at either a veterinarian's office or a veterinary school to gain some hands-on training in the field. Being able to work directly with animals and their owners will give you a wealth of information on how to handle the physical and emotional demands of the profession.
Apply for full-time employment as an animal physical therapist in a place that supports the practice, such as a holistic-focused veterinary hospital or an animal rehabilitation center. According to Degree Directory, in either of these environments you might use treadmills, massage and aquatic therapy practices to help your four-legged patients on the path to their recovery.
Items you will need
- Academic degree (either associate, bachelor or doctorate in veterinary medicine)
- State license
- In order to become a veterinarian you must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination.
- Joining an industry-specific group can help you keep pace with new developments in the field of animal rehabilitation. The Orthopaedic Section of the American Physical Therapy Association is designed to provide physical therapists and physical therapist assistants with a forum to talk about and promote the animal rehabilitation industry.
- New England Physical Therapy for Animals: Physical Therapy for Animals
- Degree Directory: Animal Physical Therapist Salary and Career Facts
- Job Monkey: Animal Physical Therapist Jobs
- American Physical Therapy Association: Animal Rehabilitation Special Interest Group
- Canine Rehabilitation Institute: Canine Rehabilitation Therapist Certification
- Animal Rehabilitation Institute: Equine Physical Rehabilitation
- David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images
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