Frequently Asked Questions
How would I go about becoming and animal physiotherapist?
Thank you for your inquiry. Before we look at the routes to be able to work in the field of animal rehabilitation, it is important to know that the term ‘animal physiotherapist’ is an incorrect term. The term ‘physiotherapist’ is a legally protected title reserved for physiotherapists working with human patients. Therefore, registered physiotherapists (and other therapists) working with animals are designated ‘animal rehabilitation therapist’.
To pursue certification in animal rehabilitation, one must first have a physiotherapy degree (Master of Science in Physical Therapy) or a veterinary degree (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine). Once either of these degrees are obtained there is post graduate training specific to animal rehabilitation. In Canada, physiotherapists can obtain a Diploma in Canine or Equine Rehabilitation through the Animal Rehabilitation Division of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association. Both physiotherapists and veterinarians have options for continuing education and certification in the US; Canine Rehabilitation Therapist Certification through the Canine Rehabilitation Institute (www.caninerehabinstitute.com), Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner through the University of Tennessee (www.u-tenn.org/ccrp/), and Certified Equine Rehabilitation Therapist through the Animal Rehab Institute (www.animalrehabinstitute.com)
I hope this helps. Please let us know if you would like further information!
I am a physiotherapist. I would like to learn more about animal rehabilitation and about your courses.
Thank you for your inquiry and interest in animal rehabilitation!
The area of animal rehabilitation is an emerging field with more and more physiotherapists realizing that our skills transfer quite easily to the rehabilitation of animals.
If you’re a member of CPA, we highly recommend membership in our division – the Animal Rehabilitation Division https://physiotherapy.ca/divisions/animal-rehabilitation. You can join anytime throughout the year by contacting CPA at email@example.com. With the membership, you receive a quarterly newsletter with lots of information on treatment, research, international updates, case studies and much more.
Connecting with other physiotherapists working in animal rehabilitation is also a great way to learn. There are some relevant Facebook groups that you could join: Animal Physios Canada, Physical Therapists in Animal Rehabilitation, etc.
The Animal Rehabilitation Division offers three courses as part of the requirements for completion of a Diploma in Canine or Equine Rehabilitation. Each of the courses is a pre-requisite for the next and is offered to registered physiotherapists:
‘Introduction to the Canine (or Equine) Patient’ is a home study course. When you register, you are sent a manual to work through at your own pace. This course is an introduction to dogs (or horses), anatomy, orthopedic and neurologic conditions of the dog/horse, gait patterns, occupation health considerations, common canine medications and nutraceuticals, as well as legal, political and practice issues.
‘Introduction to Canine (or Equine) Rehabilitation’ involves learning functional anatomy and palpation; animal behavior as it relates in a therapeutic setting; and the ability to perform a rudimentary musculoskeletal and neurological assessment of a dog/horse. Physios learn how to apply their existing skill set to the assessment and treatment of animals.
‘Advanced Canine (or Equine) Rehabilitation’ as you can imagine, is a step beyond the introductory course with more in-depth learning about assessment and treatment of ortho and neurological conditions.
For more information, please visit https://physiotherapy.ca/divisions/animal-rehabilitation or contact us again!
I am a Veterinarian/ Veterinary Technician. Am I allowed to take the Animal Rehabilitation Division courses?
Thank you for your inquiry. Our courses are only offered to registered physiotherapists. The reason for this is that the courses were designed to build on the concepts and knowledge obtained from a physiotherapy program. The participants need to have a base understanding of joint biomechanics (and pathomechanics), manual therapy, joint ligament testing, and many concepts of rehabilitation (including neurological rehabilitation), problem solving, treatment planning, exercise prescription as well as the use of various modalities that simply can’t be covered in the courses.
There are programs offered for veterinarians and veterinary technicians in the U.S. however:
Canine Rehabilitation Therapist Certification through the Canine Rehabilitation Institute (www.animalrehabinstitute.com),
Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner through the University of Tennessee (www.u-tenn.org/ccrp/), and
Certified Equine Rehabilitation Therapist through the Animal Rehab Institute (www.animalrehabinstitute.com)
Please let us know if you have any further questions. Good luck with your educational pursuits!
I’m a veterinary physiotherapist trained in U.K./South Africa. Can I practice in Canada?
Thank you for your inquiry.
In Canada, the term ‘physiotherapist’ is a legally protected title reserved for physiotherapists working with human patients. For this reason, no matter where you’ve received training in animal rehabilitation, you cannot promote yourself as – or use the title – ‘physiotherapist’. Registered physiotherapists (and other therapists) working with animals are designated ‘animal rehabilitation therapist’.
In Canada, in order to practice as an animal rehabilitation therapist, one must first hold a physiotherapy or veterinary degree, followed by post graduate certification in animal rehabilitation. Because the ‘veterinary physiotherapy’ course in the U.K. is offered without the requirement of first having a physiotherapy or veterinary degree, it is not recognized anywhere outside of the U.K. Therefore, in Canada, you would not be able to practice as an ‘animal rehabilitation therapist’ (or ‘veterinary physiotherapist for the legal reasons above). You would still need to first complete a physiotherapy or veterinary degree.
Please let us know if you would like any further information.
I would like to become an animal massage therapist. Could you direct me to the training in that field?
Thank you for your inquiry.
We highly recommend that if you are not already a human massage therapist, that you pursue training in human massage therapy first, then transfer these skills to an animal massage therapy program. This would give you a much greater depth of knowledge and a better skill set for working with animals.
It is tempting to pursue online courses in animal massage, but because massage is all ‘hands on’ we recommend that you pursue ‘in person’ education.
Here are some options:
Canine Massage Therapist Certificate – through the Royal Canadian College of Massage Therapy (Canine Massage Courses & Training | RCC Massage Toronto)
Canine Massage and Body Work – through the Canadian Institute of Equine and Canine Body Works (CIECBW)
Equine Massage and Body Work – through CIECBW
BC College of Equine Therapy
D’Al School of Equine Massage Therapy
It is important to note that all animal healthcare is under the domain of veterinary medicine. It is important to familiarize yourself with your provincial college of veterinary medicine’s position on non-veterinarians working with animals. We recommend that you work closely with veterinarians and by veterinarian referral. That way you can obtain medical clearance before working with an animal.
What are the licensing and malpractice implications when working with animals?
Thank you for your inquiry – that is a very good question!
Currently the practice of animal rehabilitation by registered physiotherapists in Canada is unregulated. The legislation regulating physiotherapists is applied in the context of human health and the assessment and treatment of the human body. Therefore, the use of title ‘physiotherapist’, ‘physical therapist’, ‘PT’, ’physiotherapy’ and ‘physical therapy’ are limited to regulated members of the physiotherapy provincial colleges. Physiotherapists working with animals are therefore not regulated by their provincial physiotherapy college, must use an alternate title ‘animal rehabilitation therapist’, and cannot count any hours working with animals toward ‘practice hours’ that are tallied for each year of college registration.
When working with animals, you can list your degree(s) behind your name (i.e. BScPT, MScPT), but not ‘PT’. The term ‘physio’ is not a legally protected title but is a ‘grey’ area, so the term ‘animal rehab’ (canine and equine rehab) are chosen in the animal healthcare/veterinary field to describe physio on animals.
Veterinarians are the primary care providers in the animal healthcare system. At this time, the veterinary colleges consider the practice of ‘animal rehab’ to be under the umbrella of veterinary medicine, although in some provinces ‘animal rehabilitation’ is not part of the definition of veterinary medicine. More progressive veterinary colleges (i.e., the CVO or College of Veterinarians of Ontario) are moving to change and modernize their Veterinarians Act to allow for more collaboration with non-veterinarians with certification in animal rehabilitation. In some provinces (i.e., BC) physiotherapists working as animal rehabilitation therapists must work under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. More veterinarians in general are learning and seeing how physiotherapists with certification in animal rehabilitation can be an adjunct to their patient’s care. It is important to research in your own province the veterinary college regulations for working with animals. It is also important to realize the in delegating tasks or referring to a non-vet, the veterinarian remains liable for your actions, so it is very important to develop a professional relationship with the referring veterinarian (i.e., ask for permission to treat an animal, send progress reports, keep open communication), and to stay within your own scope of practice.
If you are a member of the Animal Rehabilitation Division, you have access to obtaining malpractice insurance for your animal rehab practice. Although animal rehabilitation therapists are not regulated at this time, it would be unprofessional and dangerous not to hold malpractice insurance.
The Animal Rehab Division continues to advocate for our members politically and hopes to make greater strides on legislative and regulatory matters.
Are there many jobs in animal rehabilitation? Can I make a living at it?
Thank you for your inquiry.
At this point in time, animal rehab is still considered to be relatively new, and as such there are a limited number of ‘jobs’ per se. There are a limited number of animal rehabilitation clinics owned by physiotherapists. Therefore, many physiotherapists working in animal rehabilitation work as sole proprietors, consultants, or independent business owners. To be successful, it would help if you possessed some entrepreneurial know-how and strength of character to create a business for yourself. You will likely need to ‘create’ your market and promote yourself to/educate potential referral sources (i.e. local veterinarians, dog sporting groups, dog owners, etc.) Some physiotherapists working with animals connect with veterinarians to be able to work within their vet clinic.
Joining the Animal Rehab Division is a great way to communicate, connect and learn from other animal rehab entrepreneurs! There are animal rehab groups on Facebook that are good resources too (i.e., Animal Physios Canada, and Physical Therapists in Animal Rehabilitation).
There certainly are physios making a living doing animal rehab… but one must consider the requirements for licensing as a physiotherapist in one’s own province in order to maintain their registration (see FAQ #6 above; hours working with animals cannot be counted as ‘practice hours’ toward the annual registration). Therefore, most physiotherapists working as animal rehabilitation therapists also still treat humans! There is a huge potential in the market for physiotherapists wanting to work as animal rehabilitation therapists as many animal owners are seeking this type of service for their animals.
Please let us know if you have any further questions!
The timing doesn’t work for me to take the ARD courses. What are the Animal Rehab Program options in the US?
Thank you for your inquiry.
Sorry that the timing of our courses does not work for you! Please forward suggestions of dates/times that do work for you as we try to accommodate as many physios as possible.
The ARD courses are unique in that they are only offered to registered physiotherapists. The ARD courses are designed to build on our base level of knowledge as rehabilitation professionals. Therefore, we don’t have to learn basic concepts of rehabilitation that we already have (critical thinking, problem solving, manual therapy, joint ligament testing, palpation skills, etc.). Our course is much more suited for physiotherapists than the programs in the U.S.
However, if you are looking into the US, we recommend the Canine Rehabilitation Institute (www.caninrehabinstitute.com). The creator of our curricula, Laurie Edge-Hughes used to teach for CRI. CRI offers a Canine Rehabilitation Therapist Certification for both registered physiotherapists and veterinarians.
Alternately, there is a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner through the University of Tennessee (www.u-tenn.org/ccrp/), and Certified Equine Rehabilitation Therapist program through the Animal Rehab Institute (www.animalrehabinstitute.com).
Let us know how it goes – and keep us posted on your progress through whichever coursework you choose! We are simply happy if there are more physios out there practicing animal rehab!
I am a student and as part of our course, I am doing a project on emerging areas of practice in physiotherapy. I chose Animal Rehab as my topic. I’m wondering if you could help to provide me with some guidance or would be willing to answer some questions?
Thank you for contacting us and for your interest in animal rehabilitation!
We are always willing to help students in this area! We are happy to answer any questions that you might have. Please forward your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our ARD executive will get back to you with the answers. You will also find plenty of information on our website – within the Canadian Physiotherapy Association website: https://physiotherapy.ca/divisions/animal-rehabilitation
Please let us know how we can be of further assistance to you with your project.
I am trying to find a physiotherapist to work with my dog/horse/bunny/pig. Can you put me in touch with someone in my area?
Thank you for your inquiry!
There are many physiotherapists practicing animal rehabilitation across the country. Please see our ‘Animal Rehabilitation Roster’ document and contact the physio closest to your location.
Please feel free to email us again if you don’t have success finding someone close to you.
The link to the roster is:
Best of luck to you!