HOW TO TRAIN IN......Physiotherapy for Animals

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Would You Like To Become A Veterinary or Animal Physiotherapist (in the UK)?

This page has been compiled to answer some of the most common questions to become either a:

  • Chartered Physiotherapist specialising in animal physiotherapy, or
  • Veterinary physiotherapist or Animal physiotherapist (Non-Chartered physiotherapist route).

If you've any further queries please email and I'll try to help. Or alternatively contact the organisations listed at the end of this page for further advice.

Are qualifications needed at all to become an animal/veterinary physiotherapist?

Yes! But be aware that there are a range of possible qualifications.

The titles 'animal physiotherapist' and 'veterinary physiotherapist aren't currently protected by law in the UK and in theory anyone can call themselves an animal or veterinary physiotherapist. If you'd like to become a physiotherapist working with animals, then make sure you take the right training and obtain the correct qualifications.

Check to see what professional association your animal physiotherapy training will enable you to become a member of.

Leading animal physiotherapy professional associations are:

  1. Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy
  2. National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists
  3. Institute of Registered Veterinary and Animal Physiotherapists
  4. International Association of Animal Therapists.

These four associations do require certain qualifications to be achieved in order to join them. See more information below.

The title 'Chartered Physiotherapist' is protected by law. Meaning it can only be achieved by obtaining certain recognised qualifications. A Chartered Physiotherapist is someone who has undergone specific training to achieve their status and has the necessary knowledge to practice human physiotherapy. Then you can do further training in animal or veterinary physiotherapy. See below for the information on both non-chartered and chartered physiotherapy options.

Finally, in the UK there are a couple of registers a therapist could also be a member of.

1. Register of Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioners (RAMP) this exists to help veterinary surgeons and animal owners choose professionals providing Chiropractic, Osteopathic and Physiotherapy techniques who are not regulated by the RCVS for the treatment of animals.
2. The Animal Health Professions’ Register is a voluntary register which has been developed by many representative groups of the animal health industries and includes these subgroups: (a) Animal Chiropractic and Manipulation; (b) Animal Hydrotherapy; (c) Animal / Veterinary Physiotherapy; (d) Animal Sports Therapy and Massage.

Joining one of these registers will provide further reassurance to veterinary surgeon's and customers of your credentials to help their animals. Certain qualifications and business practice need to be achieved and maintained for membership. See their details at the end of this page.

What qualifications do I need & how do I get them?

1. Chartered Physiotherapist

To become a chartered physiotherapist you need to train as a human physiotherapist at University and upon successful completion of your degree course, become a State Registered Physiotherapist (registering with the Health Professions Council). A typical physiotherapy course may comprise 3-4 years of full-time study and will include clinical placements. There are some programmes which allow for part-time study, and it is also possible with a relevant degree, to study for an accelerated physiotherapy degree programme.

Once you are a member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, you can then specialise and train to become a Veterinary or Animal Physiotherapist. NB. You will normally have to practice as a human physiotherapist prior to and during specialisation.

2. Animal Physiotherapist or Veterinary Physiotherapist (for Chartered Physiotherapists only)
2. 1. Qualifications to become a Veterinary Physiotherapist -
  • Hartpury College (University of West of England) offer a MSc and Post Graduate Diploma in Veterinary Physiotherapy.
Minimum entry includes that you will need to have an Honours Degree or equivalent in human physiotherapy, plus be a member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. Upon successful completion of the Hartpury course (Postgraduate Diploma is part-time over 2 years, with the Masters being part-time over 3 years) you can then call yourself a 'Veterinary Physiotherapist', and apply for 'Category A' membership of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy (ACPAT) - see 2.2 below.
  • Liverpool University also offer a Post Graduate Diploma and MSc in Veterinary Physiotherapy - more information can be found at their website here. Successful completion will also allow you to apply for 'Category A' membership of the ACPAT.

2.2 The Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy (ACPAT)
The ACPAT is a Clinical Interest Group of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) and represents the interests of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy. You will need to complete regular, relevant Continuing Professional Development too, in order to maintain your membership of the ACPAT.

Other Animal / Veterinary Physiotherapy courses (open to non-Chartered Physiotherapists)There are several options for you to complete veterinary physiotherapy training without becoming a human chartered physiotherapist first. These include the following course options (not an exhaustive list!):

3.1 The College of Animal Physiotherapy
  • Offer a 'Diploma in Animal Physiotherapy', and includes both distance learning and practical placements. Successful completion of the course allows you to become a member of the International Association of Animal Therapists.
3.2 Harper Adams University College
  • Offer an undergraduate course - BSc Veterinary Physiotherapy. This 4 year course is recognised by the National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists (NAVP). Successful completion of this course allows students the opportunity to join the NAVP (no requirement to complete a postgraduate course). Entry requirements include 3 A- Levels at ABB (Biology at A, plus one other science subject), together with a minimum of 4 weeks animal handling experience especially with dogs and horses.
  • At a postgraduate level, there is MSc/Postgraduate Diploma in Veterinary Physiotherapy. The MSc is a three year part-time course, and the Postgraduate Diploma is a two year part-time course. Candidates are normally expected to have a minimum of a 2:1 in an animal science or health related subject degree plus have animal handling experience. Veterinary Surgeons are welcome to apply, as are applicants with extensive significant relevant work experience. Successful completion of the course(s) will allow membership of the National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists.

3.3 Writtle College
An innovative four year programme of study, which allows students to progress through a high quality course at undergraduate level directly into a fourth year at masters level, finishing with an MVetPhys Veterinary Physiotherapy. At completion of the three year undergraduate programme, students can (if successful) then have a professional qualification in equine or canine massage and do not have to complete the fourth year for the masters qualification.
The Integrated Masters programme allows students to apply for membership of the National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists.

3.4 Animal Rehabilitation and Health Academy
Offer a variety of continuous professional development courses for equine therapists and veterinary surgeon's to expand their knowledge of animal rehabilitation.

3.5 Moreton Morrell College

This BSc (Hons) course is an excellent opportunity for students wishing to qualify as a Veterinary Physiotherapist whilst studying a degree qualification. Recognised by the National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists (NAVP), studies will combine academic study and occupational competence. Graduates will be eligible for entry to the NAVP which works for the promotion of professional standards, provides insurance, CPD opportunities and recognition within the industry.

3.6 Open College of Equine Studies (OCES)
A Level 6 Equine Physiotherapy Diploma Programme is now available, and as the OCES is an approved education provider by the Register of Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioners (RAMP) it enables successful course completors to become members of this professional association. Find the link to the OCES website in the useful contacts below.

3.7 Animal Courses Direct
The combined Level 3 Diploma in Small Animal Hydrotherapy + The Level 6 Diploma in Veterinary Physiotherapy with Hydrotherapy course is first of its kind. Allowing students to become both qualified Small Animal Hydrotherapists and Veterinary Physiotherapists without having to attend university. This is the first qualification that enables Veterinary Professionals to practice treatment on animals both in the water (hydrotherapy) and on land (physiotherapy).

The course allows flexible practical training (800 hours clinical practice) at the students preferred location, 25 days of practical training and assessments at a Canine Fitness school. And the course also features the bonus of hydrotherapy and aquatic treadmill training with 6 days of hands-on training. The theory elements of this course can be studied online, providing a new point of entry for learners and flexibility in how, when and where they study.

This course contains two qualifications, both regulated by Ofqual. Upon completion, students will be awarded a Level 3 Diploma in Small Animal Hydrotherapy (Ofqual code: 603/4410/6) , and a Level 6 Diploma in Veterinary Physiotherapy (Ofqual code: 603/7725/2) which is the equivalent of a degree. Find the link to Animal Courses Direct website in the useful contacts below.

4. Continuous Professional Development (CPD)
When you complete your training course you will almost certainly be told about how to gain access to CPD courses. A variety of organisations deliver CPD for animal therapy professionals, and provide an excellent way to keep your skills up to date and learn about the latest research.

What benefit is there in first training as a human physio - I want to work with animals?
  1. You will be able to be a State Registered Physiotherapist and become a member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (and use the title 'MCSP') - these are necessary to train as a Veterinary Physiotherapist with the University of West of England (Hartpury College) and to achieve ACPAT membership.
  2. You will also be able to work with humans thus increasing your knowledge and experience. Plus you can work with both the animal and its owner in combination, e.g. horse and rider could receive physiotherapy together to achieve optimum performance.
  3. It is only Chartered Physiotherapists (trained in human physiotherapy) once they have received the relevant training in animal therapy who can officially state that they are members of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy (ACPAT).

But what if you really do not want to work with people as a physiotherapist? If instead you only want to work with animals, then choosing a course that will enable you to become a member of one of the four leading associations as listed earlier will help you to have the credentials to receive referrals from Veterinary Surgeons and legally work with animals.

What difference does being a Chartered Physiotherapist make to a customer?
As there's several types of animal therapists available, it can sometimes appear confusing to potential customers who're deciding on the most appropriate treatment for their animal. Being a Chartered Physiotherapist means that you're not only suitably qualified to carry out physiotherapy. But will have to maintain up to date knowledge through Continuing Professional Development*. By proving that you've undertaken a rigorous training and achieved nationally recognised qualifications. Potential customers know that they're going to receive a good standard of expertise. Plus a Chartered Physiotherapist who's a member of the ACPAT will be professionally regulated not only by them, but also the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy - this may provide reassurance to your potential customers.

Additionally being a registered Member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (MCSP) (or Fellow of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (FCSP)), will mean that customers know that you will be governed by a professional code of conduct, and are covered by professional liability insurance*.

*Members of other veterinary/animal physiotherapy related associations may also complete Continuous Professional Development and also have appropriate insurance. Check with each for their individual details.

Will a Vet refer cases to me?
Veterinary Surgeons are only likely to refer customers to you for physiotherapy treatment, if you are fully professionally qualified. Also, most pet/animal insurance companies will only cover physiotherapy in their policies where it's carried out by a professionally qualified animal/veterinary physiotherapist.

Remember - It is an offence for any person, other than the owner of the animal, to treat an animal unless the permission of the vet in charge of the case or to whom the animal would be referred is sought and obtained. A fully qualified Veterinary/Animal Physiotherapist will always work within the permission of and liaise with the Veterinary Surgeon of the animal.

What salary and working conditions can I expect as an animal/veterinary physiotherapist?
Salaries will depend on workload and therefore can vary widely. As a rough guide, initial consultation sessions (30minutes to 2hours) can cost from £35 to £70 and follow-up consultations (30minutes to 1 1/2 hours) can cost from £30 to £70. This can also depend on location.

Although positions do sometimes become available in large veterinary practices or private animal physiotherapy practices, most animal/veterinary physiotherapists are self- employed. As a physiotherapist you could work full or part-time, however, you are likely to need to work flexibly to suit the customer. Treatments may take place in stable-yards, veterinary surgeries or hospitals or for small animals, you may also be in the customer's home.

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