Veterinary Physiotherapy – What’s it about and who should you use?

What is Veterinary Physiotherapy?

Veterinary Physiotherapy identifies movement dysfunction, musculoskeletal and/or neurological conditions in animals.  Physiotherapy involves static, dynamic and thorough “hands on” assessment combined with anatomy and physiology knowledge to enable identification and treatment of any problems or potential problems using a variety of techniques.

Why Physiotherapy?

Animals, like people respond to physiotherapy.  The purpose of physiotherapy is to restore and maintain mobility, function, suppleness wellbeing and performance.  Regular check-ups enable the detection of any weaknesses or potential problems before they manifest to achieve the best possible outcome and maintain peak performance long term.

Which Therapist Should I Use?

There are numerous different types of practitioner or “back person” available to treat your animal and choosing who to use can be difficult.  Word of mouth is always helpful when making a decision but you should still check the qualifications of your chosen practitioner whichever background they have come from.

Veterinary Physiotherapists specialise in assessing movement and muscle function.  They assess the animal statically, observing conformation and muscle development and then dynamically to identify any abnormalities.   Following this the animal is then palpated to consolidate the observations and localise any areas of pain or tension.  If there are any concerns the animal may need to be referred back to the vet but if not then a treatment program will be devised and discussed with you to help address these issues using physiotherapy techniques and remedial exercise.  The animal is looked at as a whole and all involved professionals are consulted and kept informed to enable the best possible outcome.

Currently the title Veterinary Physiotherapist is not protected, this means that anyone can call themselves a Vet Physio and treat animals with little or no training.

When choosing a therapist, you should check what qualifications they carry, ideally you are looking for a Postgraduate qualification such as a Postgraduate Diploma (PgD) or Masters (MSc) Veterinary Physiotherapy.  Practitioners who have taken this route will have been through extensive training to gain this qualification including academic and practical skills.

Chartered Veterinary Physiotherapists studied human physiotherapy and gained an undergraduate degree before completing a PgD or MSc Veterinary Physiotherapy.  Only human trained Physiotherapists can use the protected term “Chartered” and will be ACPAT members.  ACPAT Physiotherapists are highly skilled professionals who have undergone human training initially however, there are now other, equally skilled Veterinary Physiotherapists who have undertaken extensive training at Postgraduate level to become a Veterinary Physiotherapist.

Veterinary Physiotherapists who carry a postgraduate qualification have purely studied animal physiotherapy and usually have prior industry experience and an animal science or veterinary/vet nursing degree before commencing the Postgraduate course.  During their training they will have covered anatomy, physiology and disease modules,  as well as physiotherapy and rehabilitation modules.  Alongside the extensive academic side there is also a large practical element which involves hands on teaching and placements with practicing Veterinary Physiotherapists.

Alongside checking the qualifications of your chosen therapist you can also see if they belong to a governing body which indicates that the practitioner is not only qualified but also insured to give extra security.  Recommended sites include:

  • National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists (NAVP)
  • Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (ACPAT)
  • Institute of Registered Veterinary and Animal Physiotherapists (IRVAP)

Author: stridesvp

Vet Physio at Strides Veterinary Physiotherapy -

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