Animal Physical Therapist Jobs

Athletes, as well as those plagued by various injuries, might from time to time visit a chiropractor and/or physical therapist in order the assist in injury recovery and future injury prevention.

The same can be said for animals, particularly dogs, cats and horses, all of whom can sustain injuries that require specialized treatment plans and/or necessary surgery recovery.

For those who want to literally help animals get back on their feet, an animal physical therapist job might be your calling. Animal physical therapists can assist in surgery and injury recovery, as well as chronic pain and arthritis, which can both speed up healing time and also provide a more positive overall recovery.

Animal Therapists Help with Treating Injuries in Various Species of Animals

While veterinarians and licensed veterinary technicians can perform basic animal physical therapy functions, some choose to become certified in canine rehabilitation, or else study for and become licensed physical therapists who specializes in the treatment of animals. Only licensed physical therapists (PTs) or licensed physical therapist assistants (PTAs) working under the supervision of physical therapists are legally allowed to perform physical therapy.

Animal physical therapists can help increase patient mobility after orthopedic or neurologic injury; help rehabilitate after a limb injury, surgery or removal; improve and prolong quality of life in older patients; assist in weight loss in overweight and obese animals; and manage acute and chronic pain.

To become an animal physical therapist, you must first obtain a master’s degree in physical therapy with an emphasis on animals, and then pass a state licensing exam to practice physical therapy. Most physical therapy programs take about three years to complete. PTAs are required to earn an associate’s degrees, which takes about two years.

To become an equine (horse) physical therapist, most programs require you to be a licensed veterinarian, physical therapist or assistant veterinary technician.

Most animal patients are seen on an outpatient basis, much like human physical therapy, and are exposed to an initial orthopedic and fitness evaluation. A treatment plan might include range of motion exercises, stretching, massage, stim machine and ultrasound usage, and hot or cold therapy, and, eventually, strengthening exercises. Most physical rehabilitation programs last six to eight weeks, and patients are typically seen twice per week for the duration.

The starting salary for most veterinary physical therapists is $29,000 to $31,000, with $36,000 as the median with one to four years of experience. For animal assisted therapists, the starting salary is $25,000 to $28,000.

While veterinary physical therapists focus on the prevention, onset or treatment of injuries, diseases, and anything else that can affect mobility, animal assisted therapists study the behavioral patterns in animals and provide tools to improve mental, social and physical issues within humans through animal/human companionship, as well as help human patients with acute or chronic diseases through the use of therapy companion animals.

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