The Most Fascinating Careers in Rehabilitating Animals

Rehabilitating Animal Article

Reading Time: 12 minutes

Introduction

Animal rehabilitation is a noble and essential field dedicated to restoring the health and well-being of creatures big and small. Whether it’s a wounded wild animal, a beloved pet recovering from surgery, or a marine mammal stranded on the shore, the work of animal rehabilitators plays a crucial role in giving these beings a second chance at life. This article explores the why, the how, and the various careers available in the rewarding realm of animal rehabilitation.

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Why do we rehabilitate animals?

Animal rehabilitation serves multiple purposes, each contributing to the welfare of the individual animals and the broader Ecosystem.

Firstly, rehabilitation is vital for injured or orphaned wild animals. Wildlife rehabilitators step in to provide medical care, nourishment, and a safe Environment for animals to recover before releasing them back into their natural habitats. This not only helps the individual animal but also contributes to the overall health and balance of ecosystems.

In the realm of domestic animals, rehabilitation is often focused on physical therapy and behavioral modification. Veterinary rehabilitation therapists, animal physical therapists, and animal behaviorists work together to address issues ranging from musculoskeletal injuries to behavioral problems, ensuring that pets can lead healthy and happy lives.

Careers in rehabilitating animals

1. Animal Behaviourist

An Animal Behaviourist studies the way animals behave and tries to determine what causes certain types of behaviour and what factors can prompt behaviour change.

​They usually specialize in specific kinds of species, whether it’s fish, birds, large animals, insects, livestock or household pets.

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How to become an Animal Behaviourist

To become an animal behaviourist, you need to decide with which animals you will be working. There are less advanced animal behaviour and management courses if you do decide to start your own consulting business and work with domesticated animals. But if you are thinking of following a more advanced career, then you will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree at a certified university. Most positions available when working with wildlife require an additional degree (Masters or Doctoral) and at least a few years of experience in the field.

The majority of workers employed in this profession have a high school certificate (29.9%) or are at diploma level (28%). The other 44.4% have a Certificate III or higher (3% have degrees).

Study Focus:

It is possible to become an animal behaviourist by studying related fields such as biology, zoology, psychology, neural sciences, or anthropology.

Short Courses:

There are many short courses that will assist you in the basics of animal behaviour. Courses in animal anatomy will also be good.

Career Name – Animal Behaviourist
Category – Health / Business / Marine Conservation / Wildlife Conservation / Zoos, Aquariums, Theme Parks and Museums
Skills Required – Life skills 40% – Career skills 60%
Basic School Subjects – Biology, Science, Business Studies
Minimum Education Required – High School + Short Courses
Species Worked With – Cats, Dogs, Critters, Farm Animals, Mammals, Marine Mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians, Mollusks
Kind of Interaction with Animals – Direct

Helpful Links

Career Profiles:

2. Animal Chiropractor

An Animal Chiropractor performs adjustments to the joints and vertebrae of animals to alleviate pain, restore balance, and improve overall performance.

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How to become an Animal Chiropractor:

To become an animal chiropractor, you will need to study veterinary science.

This means that you will need to study towards a Doctoral Degree in Veterinary Sciences, starting out with a Bachelor’s in Veterinary Science (BVSc).

To specialise in using chiropractic techniques requires another 1 or 2 years of intense studies in alternative medicine.

Subject focus:

Studying veterinary medicine will automatically indicate the subjects to follow. You will only have a far broader choice as you start to specialise.

Career Name – Animal Chiropractor
Category – Health / Business / Specialist
Skills Required – Life skills 40% – Career skills 60%
Basic School Subjects – Biology, Science (including chemistry and maths), Business Studies
Minimum Required Education – Doctorate Degree
Species Worked With – Cats, Dogs, Critters, Farm Animals, Mammals
Kind of Interaction with Animals – Direct

Helpful Links

Career Profiles:

3. Animal Massage Therapist

An animal massage therapist uses massage techniques to relax the muscles, stimulate circulation, and assist in strengthening the limbs of animals.

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How to become an Animal Massage Therapist

The minimum requirement to enter this field is a certified diploma from a tertiary institution. Many universities and colleges offer programmes in general for small animal, Canine, or Equine massage.

Study Focus:

Animal massage is often taught through certificate programmes that focus on topics such as animal anatomy and physiology, as well as massage techniques.

Short courses:

They may also help to expand on your knowledge. The best animal massage therapists also study Short Courses on handling the specific kind of animals they want to work with. Short Courses could include animal behaviorism and first aid.

Career Name – Animal Massage Therapist
Category – Art & Design
Skills Required – Life skills 40% – Career skills 60%
Basic School Subjects – Art, Business Studies, Biology
Minimum Required Education – High School + Short Courses
Species Worked With – Pets, Critters, Farm Animals, Wildlife
Kind of Interaction with Animals – Direct

Helpful Links

Career Profiles:

4. Animal Orthotist

An animal orthotist designs, develops, fits, and manufactures orthoses (braces or splints) that support or correct musculoskeletal deformities and/or abnormalities of an animal’s limbs.

Animals that need orthoses may have severe injuries, fractures, arthritis, spinal cord injury or problematic growth of a limb.

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How to become an Animal Orthotist

The minimum international requirement is a bachelor’s degree. Most do specialise after the degree towards a more advanced Master’s Degree in Orthotics.

Subject focus:

The following majors can be taken: biomedical engineering, biology, animal physiology, or even animal science.

Short Courses:

Many colleges have excellent short courses in animal rehabilitation.

Career Name – Animal Orthotist
Category – Health / Specialists
Skills Required – Life skills 40% – Career skills 60%
Basic School Subjects – Biology, Science, Language
Minimum Required Education – Doctorate Degree
Species Worked With – Insects, Arachnids, Worms
Kind of Interaction with Animals – Direct

Helpful Links

Career Profiles:

5. Animal Physical Therapist

Animal physical therapists are usually licenced physical therapists who choose to treat animals. However,  physical therapist assistants, veterinarians, and veterinary technicians are also allowed to practise 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.

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How to become an Animal Physical Therapist

To become an animal physical therapist, you must have a minimum of 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 in physical therapy. Most countries do require physical therapists to have a licence before they are allowed to practise.

Study Focus:

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 it is 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 programme requirements.

Career Name – Animal Physical Therapist
Category – Health / Business / Farming & Livestock Management
Skills Required – Life skills 40% – Career skills 60%
Basic School Subjects – Art, Business Studies, Biology
Minimum Required Education – Bachelor’s Degree
Species Worked With – Pets, Critters, Farm Animals, Wildlife
Kind of Interaction with Animals – Direct

Helpful Links

6. Animal Prosthetist

An animal prosthetist designs, develops, fits, and manufactures appendages or prosthetic limbs for animals that lost specific limbs, such as legs, in order for them to regain some mobility.

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How to become an Animal Prosthetist

The minimum international requirement is a bachelor’s degree. Most do specialise after the degree towards a more advanced Master’s Degree in Prosthetics.

Subject focus:

The following majors can be taken: biomedical engineering, biology, animal physiology, or even animal science.

Short Courses:

Many colleges have excellent short courses in animal rehabilitation.

Career Name – Animal Prosthetist
Category – Health, Business, Specialists
Skills Required – Life skills 40% – Career skills 60%
Basic School Subjects – Biology, Science, Language
Minimum Required Education – Bachelor’s Degree
Species Worked With – Cats, Dogs, Critters, Farm Animals, Mammals, Marine Mammals
Kind of Interaction with Animals – Direct

Helpful Links

Career Profiles:

7. Canine Hydrotherapist

Canine hydrotherapists make use of water and special physical therapy techniques to help dogs recover from different kinds of ligament injuries.

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How to become a Canine Hydrotherapist

The minimum qualification to enter this career is currently a high school certificate. The reason for this is due to the fact that most canine hydrotherapists complete specifically tailored courses instead of pursuing studies through college or university. This should not stop those who would like to study further towards a good college diploma.

Study Focus:

If you do want to study further, then it would be good to look at courses in biology or animal physiotherapy.

Short Courses:

They are a must, as most positions will require completing courses in animal first aid, pool water management, hydrotherapy theory and techniques, canine anatomy and physiology.

Career Name – Canine Hydrotherapist
Category – Health / Business
Skills Required – Life skills 40% – Career skills 60%
Basic School Subjects – Language, Business Studies, Biology
Minimum Required Education – High School
Species Worked With – Pets, Critters, Farm Animals, Wildlife
Kind of Interaction with Animals – Direct

Helpful Links

Career Profiles:

8. Rehabilitation Assistant

Assists animal therapists with the wellbeing of animals that have to be rehabilitated after surgical procedures. Works under the supervision of a licenced physical therapist, physical therapist assistant, or occupational therapist.

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How to become a Rehabilitation Assistant

Generally, rehab assistants must have at least a minimum of a high school diploma (certificate) when working for an established organisation.

The best carers learn additional skills on the job or acquire skills through completing short courses.

Study Focus:

When you do decide to further your skills, you might want to focus on short courses that specialise in caring for domesticated animals as well as dealing with behavioural issues.

Career Name – Rehabilitation Assistant
Category – Animal Care / Health
Skills Required – Life skills 40% – Career skills 60%
Basic School Subjects – Biology, Business Studies, Maths
Required Minimum Education – High School Certificate
Species Worked With – Cats, Dogs, Critters, Farm Animals, Mammals
Kind of Interaction with Animals – Direct

Helpful Links

Career Profiles:

9. Veterinarian

A Veterinarian is a doctor who protects the health and well-being of both animals and people by treating animals for various ailments and diseases.

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How to become a Veterinarian

To become a veterinarian you will need to study towards a Doctorate Degree in Veterinary Sciences, starting out with a Bachelor’s in Veterinary Science (BVSc).

Study Focus:

Majors that can be taken include biology, chemistry, biochemistry, and math.

Most veterinarians focus on working with small domesticated animals and will direct their studies accordingly. Those who want to work with exotic animals, birds, wildlife, or even zoo animals tend to specialise their studies in these directions by adding a year or two to their studies.

Short Courses:

There are plenty of short courses that you may even complete while still in school. Focus on those that teach animal first aid, animal behaviour, animal care, and business.

Career Name – Veterinarian
Categories – Health / Business / Farming & Livestock Management
Skills Required – Life skills 40% – Career skills 60%
Basic School Subjects – Biology, Science, Business Studies
Minimum Required Education – Doctorate Degree (PhD)
Species Worked With – Pets, Critters, Farm Animals
Kind of Interaction with Animals – Direct

Helpful Links

10. Wildlife Rehabilitator

Wildlife rehabilitators provide care to injured wild animals that are sick, injured, or orphaned with the hopes of returning them back into the wild.

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How to become a Wildlife Rehabilitator

Volunteer rehabilitators do not need any specific training, but full-time rehabilitators do require a minimum of a high school certificate. Most rehabilitators do have a college diploma.

Some of the top positions are filled with people who already have a bachelor’s degree in something like zoology.

Study Focus:

A good background in zoology, animal health, and animal behaviour.

Short Courses:

Courses in things such as animal first aid or rehabilitation to boost your knowledge.

Career Name – Wildlife Rehabilitator
Category – Animal Care / Animal Health / Marine Conservation / Wildlife Conservation
Skills Required – Life skills 40% – Career skills 60%
Basic School Subjects – Language / Biology / Science
Minimum Required Education – High School
Species Worked With – Wildlife
Kind of Interaction with Animals – Direct

Helpful Links

Career Profiles:

Pros and Cons of Rehabilitating Animals

Pros:

  • Conservation: Wildlife rehabilitation contributes to the conservation of species by releasing healthy individuals back into the wild.
  • Compassion: It allows humans to demonstrate compassion and responsibility towards the well-being of animals.
  • Education: Animal rehabilitation provides opportunities for education and research, enhancing our understanding of various species.
  • Bonding: In the case of domestic animals, rehabilitation fosters stronger bonds between pets and their owners.

Cons:

  • Emotional Strain: Dealing with injured or sick animals can be emotionally challenging for rehabilitators.
  • Resource Intensive: Animal rehabilitation requires significant resources, including time, money, and expertise.
  • Release Challenges: Releasing animals back into the wild is not always smooth, and there is a risk of unsuccessful reintroduction.
  • Limited Impact: The impact of rehabilitation on larger conservation issues can be limited.

What Should a High School Student Know and Do to Enter an Animal Rehabilitation Career?

Embarking on a career in animal rehabilitation requires passion, dedication, and a well-rounded education. Here’s a guide for high school students interested in pursuing these careers:

Build a Strong Academic Foundation:

  • Focus on biology, chemistry, and physics courses to develop a solid scientific understanding.
  • Take psychology or behavioural science classes for careers involving animal behaviour.

Volunteer and Gain Experience:

  • Seek volunteer opportunities at local animal shelters, wildlife rehabilitation centres, or veterinary clinics.
  • Attend workshops, seminars, and conferences related to animal rehabilitation to expand your knowledge and network.

Pursue Relevant Extracurricular Activities:

  • Join clubs or organisations focused on animal welfare and conservation.
  • Consider participating in science fairs or research projects related to animal rehabilitation.

Acquire Basic First Aid and CPR Skills:

  • Enrol in courses that teach basic first aid and CPR skills, which are valuable in any animal-related career.

Explore Internship Opportunities:

  • Look for internships at veterinary clinics, zoos, or rehabilitation centres to gain hands-on experience.

Develop Communication Skills:

  • Effective communication is crucial to animal rehabilitation careers. Work on public speaking, writing, and interpersonal skills.

Research Educational Requirements:

  • Research the specific educational requirements for the chosen career path, whether it’s a bachelor’s degree, specialised certification, or advanced degree.

Stay Informed About Industry Trends:

  • Follow advancements in animal rehabilitation and related fields by reading scientific journals, blogs, and publications.

Network with Professionals:

  • Attend industry events, workshops, or career fairs to connect with professionals in the field.

Demonstrate Compassion and Patience:

  • Show empathy and patience, as working with animals can be emotionally demanding.

Conclusion

Animal rehabilitation is a bridge between the vulnerability of injured or distressed animals and the hope for their recovery. The diverse careers within this field offer individuals the opportunity to make a tangible difference in the lives of animals, whether they are wild creatures returning to their natural habitats or beloved pets regaining their mobility and joy. For high school students aspiring to enter the world of animal rehabilitation, a combination of education, hands-on experience, and a genuine love for animals can pave the way toward a fulfilling and impactful career. As we strive to coexist with and care for the creatures that share our planet, the work of animal rehabilitators stands as a testament to the enduring bond between humans and the animal kingdom.

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This article is meant to educate and inspire those who want to work with animals. Therefore the info and images in this article are CC0. This enables visitors to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, with no conditions.

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