Friday, 19th April 2019


Veterinary (or animal) physiotherapy is a complementary therapy which focuses on the treatment of animals’ injuries and movement problems. Veterinary physiotherapy is usually carried out following veterinary referral, whereby a veterinary physiotherapist will work with a referred patient over a period of time, aiming to rehabilitate and improve the health and movement.

Most veterinary physiotherapists will treat horses and dogs, either working animals or pets. Others may get some experience working with zoo animals. Veterinary physiotherapists are not permitted to work on animals without official veterinary referral.

The work of a veterinary physiotherapist involves similar tasks and exercises to that of a human physiotherapist. However, naturally, the work may also be very different given the type and variety of possible patients.

Generally the work can be split into the following areas:

  • Performance enhancement and treatment of injuries suffered by ridden horses and working or competition dogs
  • Post-operative rehabilitation for animals to help regain movement
  • Improving the quality of life in animals with degenerative conditions such as arthritis or problems with their limbs

Sometimes after suffering an injury, animals need more support in order to heal naturally. The aim of the physiotherapist is to use specialist methods, exercises and equipment to help the animal heal in a natural time span.

The process of physiotherapy is provided by:

  • Physiotherapeutic equipment
  • Manual techniques
  • Rehabilitation
  • Hydrotherapy

Due to the one-on-one nature of their work, veterinary physiotherapists need to have an affinity with animals. Good communication with the patient, the owner, and the vet is all important, on top of the advanced qualifications.

Another type of veterinary physiotherapy is hydrotherapy. This is a process where animals (mainly dogs) referred by vets, go to a swimming pool and have swimming lessons and exercises to help sooth joints, muscles and the respiratory system. For more information on being a canine hydrotherapist, please see Specialisms.