Animal Physical Therapist Career Summary

Do you want to work as an animal physical therapist?

READ: This page helps you to read about the career and the info you need to decide on whether this is indeed the career you want to follow.

RESEARCH: ​Learn about the skills required and minimum subjects to enter this career, as well as the places where you can study further after school.

PREPARE: If you want to plan and prepare for the career, then join the OZT Community! Members have access to tools, while chatting with other students and experts from around the world. Prepare to be amazed!


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UPDATED: 31 August 2020

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What is an animal physical therapist?

Animal physical therapists are usually licensed physical therapists who choose to treat animals. However, physical therapist assistants, veterinarians and veterinary technicians are also allowed to practice physical therapy on animals. Education requirements vary from diplomas to doctoral degrees, depending on the career title.

Although veterinarians often participate in animal rehabilitation, most animal therapists are licensed physical therapists who choose to work with animals instead of people. Not only do the positions share the same education and licensing requirements, but the animal therapist’s role is similar to the physical therapist’s.

Those that specialize in the use of water in therapy, are called Canine Hydrotherapists


The application of heat to warm up the animal's muscles before any physical exercise

Pet ailments?

Nearly 30-40% of all cats and 50-60% of all dogs will develop arthritis at some point in their lives

What does an Animal Physical Therapist do?

Groups of animals an Animal Physical Therapist works with

Cats List Icon
Dogs List Icon OZT
Critters List Icon OZT
Farm Animals Icon OZT
Farm Animals
Mammals List Icon OZT
Birds List Icon OZT

Career Categories

The Animal Physical Therapist career can be found in the following career categories:

  • Health
  • Business
  • Farming and Livestock Management

What does an Animal Physical Therapist focus on?

Animal physical therapists provide rehabilitative care to animals who have had surgery, been injured or suffer from chronic pain. Physical therapy can speed an animal’s recovery and improve its quality of life.

Physical therapy for animals is relatively new. In the past, veterinarians would immobilize an animal’s limbs after surgery for 4-6 weeks using casts, splints or braces. However, it is now known that allowing mobility can speed along the recovery process. Physical therapy can help by increasing blood flow to the injured area, reducing inflammation, minimizing muscle atrophy, normalizing joint function and increasing collagen synthesis.

Animal physical therapists employ much of the same treatments, such as exercise rehabilitation, aquatic therapy, massage, ultrasound therapy, heat therapy, passive range of motion activity, neuromuscular stimulation and cryotherapy, as do physical therapists who treat humans.

What are the daily tasks of an Animal Physical Therapist?

  • Discuss brief with clients
  • Stretching and manual therapy
  • Range of motion
  • Massage/STM
  • Therapeutic exercise
  • Proprioceptive activities
  • E-stim/ laser/ ultrasound
  • Aquatic therapy
  • Administration and filing

The working environment of an Animal Physical Therapist

Where does an Animal Physical Therapist work?

Environment –

Physical therapists mainly work indoors, whether from their own practices (clinics), or when called out to assist a client.

Places of Employment –

Animal physical therapists mainly establish their own practices or assist veterinarians in theirs. Animal Physical Therapists are in demand at wildlife rehabilitation centers, zoos and nature parks.

What is the average annual salary of an Animal Physical Therapist?

As most animal physical therapists are self employed, their income is based on obtaining contracts. On average the income per year is around $80,000. This will differ from country to country.

What difficulties can an Animal Physical Therapist face?

Working with difficult or hurting animals can cause them to react, which could include biting and kicking. Physical therapists might need to work long hours, especially in emergencies, and may need to travel to reach distant farms.

Future growth and Possibilities

The employment opportunity for Animal Physical Therapists is positive and growing above average. Even with most privately employed, the field is opening in corporate business, research and government. 

Availability of Jobs


Which Skills are required by an Animal Physical Therapist?

The skills required for a career as an animal physical therapist can be divided into two very important groups. The first is the group containing life skills, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.

Life Skills

  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Decision making
  • Problem Solving
  • Effective communication
  • Interpersonal relationship
Life Skills

Career Skills

  • ​Good business knowledge
  • Good animal health and care skills
  • Basic customer service skills
  • Good health and physical fitness
  • Excellent computer literacy
Career Skills

Which Subjects must I have at School to prepare for this career?

The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.

OZT has a list of various tertiary institutions where you can study further, after school. Each of these institutions also have their own Group page on OZT where you will find the exact subjects they require of you to have passed in school. Keep these requirements in mind, and discuss it with your school, guidance counselor and parents to ensure that you are prepared!

What will I need to Study to become an Animal Physical Therapist?

Minimum Requirements

To become an animal physical therapist requires at minimum a Bachelor’s Degree. However, there are practitioners who started out with the right College Diplomas and completed the necessary short courses.

After your Degree you have to complete an accredited Master’s Degree towards physical therapy. Most countries do require physical therapists to have a license before they are allowed to practice.

Study Focus

Major –

Although you don’t need a specific degree major for undergraduate study, take courses in science and mathematics, such as anatomy, animal physiology, chemistry and physics.

Volunteer experience as an animal therapist student is vital, and in the process of being required by legislation. Volunteer experience offers the opportunity for valuable training under the direction of professional animal therapists, and it’s often a part of graduate program requirements.

Study Duration

The duration of College and Bachelor’s Degrees can be up to 3 or 4 years. Short Courses are usually between a few weeks and a year.

Possible Career Preparation Paths

If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.

Why is planning important?

​To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A Preparation Path is like your road map to where you want to be.

Possible Paths:

Possible Combined Career Paths

It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.

Possible Alternatives (there are a lot more):

Training and apprenticeship

Even though it is important to study to get into some of the animal careers, most of the skills you will need as a physical therapist will be acquired through practice. This means that you will learn how to perform some of the daily tasks by actually doing it a few times and learning the steps.

In some cases entry level positions require training sessions even before you are allowed to actually perform your job duties. These sessions are offered by the place of employment, after you have successfully applied.

Apprenticeship is also possible where you need to learn skills from a more senior cartoonist or expert.

Join the Animal Physical Therapists Group in the OZT Community to learn more and even interact with the educational institutions that will help you secure your dream career!

Average level of education of all the people who enter the career

High School Certificate 0%
Diploma or Short Courses 0%
Degree or Higher Studies 0%

Licenses, Certificate, Registration and Professional Associations

Certain animal careers require some form of legal certification to prove that you can indeed do the work, and work with the necessary equipment.

Although not required by law, certifications may help workers establish their credentials and enhance their skills.

Learn more about requirements by joining the OZT Community.

Professional Associations

Where can I study further?

All of the above information will help you understand more about the Career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with High School (Grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies, and WHERE you will study.

See the List of Universities, Colleges and Online Training Academies who offer courses towards physiotherapy.

Do you want to contribute to the career information? Please click on the red beetle to learn about being an OZT mentor or contributor.

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Join our OZT community and Animal Physical Therapist Group

Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming an animal physical therapist.

Members of the Platform have special access to:

  • Info on the best places where you can study (colleges, universities and online)
  • Expertly designed advice to prepare you for the career, and links to places where you can gain valuable experience. For some career experience is necessary, otherwise you wont get the job!
  • Top notch info on each of the different species you will work with
  • Make friends around the world and share knowledge
  • Compete and win points, badges, games, prizes and certificates. Be the best of the best, while you learn and prepare!

If you have decided on being an Animal Physical Therapist, please click on the JOIN GROUP button. Members will be directed to the Group, while non-members will be assisted to register first.

If this career is NOT the career for you, then you may return to the MAIN CAREER menu, and search for something different.

  • Group logo of Animal Physical Therapists

    Animal Physical Therapists

    Public Group / 1 member

    active 1 month, 2 weeks ago

    The Group was created to bring together all those interested in learning more about the career while having access to free resources, short courses, expert advice as well as the option to interact with other students from around […]

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