What the job involves
Veterinary physiotherapists work alongside veterinary surgeons to help reduce pain, improve mobility and prevent recurrence or injury in animals. Common animals referred for physiotherapy include horses and dogs, and these could be companion or working animals, such as race horses and greyhounds. You may also treat other animals such as cats and some farm or zoo animals.
Most veterinary physiotherapists are self-employed, operating as a small business. As such you will need the drive and enthusiasm to build your own business.
You will be working closely with veterinary surgeons and clients so it is important that you have strong interpersonal communication skills. You must be flexible and practical, adapting to new situations and scenarios.
Patience is a key quality and you should be observant, persistent and analytical in your work. A genuine interest in animals and their welfare is essential. It is important to be well organised, particularly in managing appointments and keeping records.
Veterinary physiotherapy is typically flexible, your work could be full-time or part-time and your hours will depend on the needs of clients. As a guide, full-time hours are usually between 35 and 40 hours a week. Weekend appointments and on-call emergency duties are also common, meeting the needs of your clients.
Your working conditions will vary and stamina is needed for such a physical job; treatments could be carried out in stable yards, the client’s home, or in veterinary surgeries and hospitals.
Qualifications and training
You can become a veterinary physiotherapist in several ways:
- complete a degree in human physiotherapy followed by postgraduate training in veterinary physiotherapy
- complete a degree in veterinary physiotherapy
- complete a postgraduate-level Advanced Certificate in Veterinary Physiotherapy.
The route you take will depend on your previous qualifications and experience and which professional body you may want to join.
Please ensure you investigate all of your options before deciding which route best suits you.
Throughout your career as a veterinary physiotherapist you will be required to undertake continuing professional education (CPD), attending conferences or undertaking further qualifications.
What qualification do I need to start training as a physiotherapist?
If you choose to train as a veterinary physiotherapist you will need to meet the entry criteria outlined by the course provider. Training courses often ask for an animal or health-related degree, merited at a 2.1 or above, along with extensive experience with animals.
Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy
You will need to have a degree in human physiotherapy and be a member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists before you can apply to undertake the Postgraduate Diploma/MSc in Veterinary Physiotherapy.
Degree in Veterinary Physiotherapy
Typical entry requirements for an undergraduate degree are five GCSEs at Grade C or above in Maths, English Language and a Science, plus three A2 Levels including an A in Biology/Human Biology and one other science based subject at grade B. Offers tend to be in the region of AAB.
You will likely need a first degree in a relevant subject such as veterinary nursing at a minimum of 2:2 although prior learning may be taken into account for mature applicants.
Getting into the profession
Physiotherapists are often required to travel over a wide area to various premises so you will usually need to have a full driving licence when making a job application or setting up your own business.
Job vacancies may be found via:
- Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy
- The Veterinary Record
- Vet Times Jobs
Salary and benefits
Rates of pay vary according to employers and the location of employment. If you are a self-employed private practitioner, your income will depend on workload and the number of appointments and clients you book.
As a guide, salaries range from starting salaries at around £18,500 a year, rising to around £20,000-£25,000 a year for experienced veterinary physiotherapists. Senior veterinary physiotherapists and consultants may earn up to £65,000 a year.
Self-employed physiotherapists charge hourly rates; these can range from approximately £25-£70 per appointment.
Once you have become a veterinary physiotherapist, you have the opportunity to specialise and, for example, become a specialist physiotherapist in respiratory or neurological conditions.
After you have gained experience working in the field you may choose to work as a lecturer or consultant. You may decide to become self-employed, opening your own business, or if you already work for yourself, you could expand your company.
In larger veterinary practices and animal hospitals, promotions may be possible; you could progress to become a senior or chief veterinary physiotherapist.