How to Become an Animal Physical Therapist

Authored by Anita Saran in Pets
Published on 10-14-2009

Basically, an animal physical therapist helps the animal to move again after it has suffered from some debilitating illness, surgery, or some kind of physical injury that has hampered movement. The lack of mobility may even be due to the animal being overweight.

Animal Physical Therapists also assist vets in surgery and relieve the pain caused by injury and diseases like arthritis. Pain-free animals heal faster, and if you’re an animal lover, this is the perfect profession for you.

As an animal physical therapist, you can work privately or for zoos. This means you’ll be dealing with other animals besides dogs, horses, cows and cats.

What Animal Physical Therapy Involves

To begin with, you will usually be required to provide an initial orthopedic and fitness evaluation. Your treatment will probably include massage, stretching and a series of motion exercises. You may also be using a stim machine and ultrasound, as well as hot or cold therapy, followed with exercises to strengthen the muscles. Typically, the rehabilitation programme will last for six to eight weeks, and you will be seeing your animal patients twice a week.

How to Qualify as an Animal Physical Therapist

  1. You need a Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy with specialisation in animals. The course duration is usually three years. If you want to become an Animal Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA), you need to invest about two years in an associate degree. If you want to work with horses and become an equine physical therapist, you need to be a physical therapist, licensed veterinarian or an assistant veterinary technician.
  2. After getting your Master’s Degree, you will have to do a state licensing exam which will enable you to legally practice physical therapy. While vets can provide basic physical therapy, they can’t do much more. They must specialise in this area and become physical therapists (PTs) or Physical Therapist Assistants (PTAs) themselves.
  3. Next, you must get some experience as an intern. You can do this while still in college. Zoos and private veterinary centres for physical therapy take interns. Your internship will not only provide you with practical experience, it may also lead to good job opportunities.
  4. Armed with your updated resume and details of your internship, you can begin sending out feelers for jobs. Zoos and vet clinics are the obvious places to target.

Tips For Becoming an Animal Physical Therapist

  • Focusing on science during your undergraduate studies will help you become eligible for a Master’s Degree.
  • In the long run, animal physical therapists enjoy a lucrative career. However, you can expect to begin with anything between $29,000 to $31,000. With experience your salary can go up to $36,000.

To become an animal physical therapist, you will need a Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy with a focus on animals and pass a state exam to procure your license for practice. Pet care is a million dollar industry and you can make a lot of money, as well as help animals in distress.


  • Animal Therapy Schools and Animal Massage Programs

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