Animal physiotherapist

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Ruth is an animal physiotherapist. Her job involves treating animals who have joint or muscular problems affecting their movements. She uses a combination of electrotherapy equipment and her hands to manipulate the muscles and joints into better working order.

What does your job involve?

I visit farms and stables seeing horses, dogs and cats. This involves hands-on treatment, as well as keeping notes on my patients and liaising with vets about the treatments I am giving. I visit about six clients a day and generally start at about 8.00am. I sometimes drive up to 150 miles a day.

What equipment do you use to treat animals?

Most of this work is using manual techniques, but I might also use electrotherapy equipment such as muscle stimulators, lasers, ultrasound and electromagnetic therapy. When I am treating horses I stand on a step and I also need a good set of waterproof clothing.

Do you work with veterinary surgeons?

Yes. The law states we can only work with veterinary permission. I also work with other professionals such as farriers, dieticians and horse trainers who are all trying to find ways to ease any joint or muscular discomfort an animal may have. For instance, they may be helping an animal to lose weight and lighten the load on their joints, or making a special shoe.

Why did you choose this career?

I wanted to work with animals, but I didn't want to work as a vet in a surgery or do routine jobs in a stable or kennel. After my A levels I spent a year working with event, polo and showjumping horses. I then did my degree and practised human physiotherapy, mostly working with sports injuries, before doing an apprenticeship with a fellow animal physiotherapist.

What do you like best about your job?

I love working with horses and being in the countryside. I never know where I am going next – I am the British equestrian team physiotherapist, so I have been to the Olympics treating the horses and their riders. I have also lectured in Japan and treated horses in a New Zealand polo yard.

Are there any disadvantages?

As I am self-employed, there is always a lot of paperwork and administration and the phone never stops ringing – sometimes at very odd hours!

What kind of person makes a good animal physiotherapist?

Anyone who does this job – whether with animals or humans – must be relatively outgoing, with good communication skills. You need to have a love of animals and ideally you need to have been around animals all your life. It also helps if you are happy working alone for long periods.

What are your future career plans?

I want to continue to work with the British equestrian team and to build up my practice, training other physiotherapists to work with me. I need to make sure I keep up with improvements in science and technology so I can continue to offer a good service.

Ruth's route to becoming an Animal physiotherapist

  • A levels.
  • Year off working with horses.
  • Physiotherapy degree at University of Birmingham (not necessary but is ruth's route).
  • Worked in hospitals and private sports injuries clinics.
  • Apprenticeship leading to membership of Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy (ACPAT).
  • Started own practice.

Ruth's tips

  • Remember this job involves training to work with humans first and that is what establishes you as a good physiotherapist.
  • A year off after A levels is a great idea – work in a professional horse yard to gain valuable experience.

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Animal physiotherapist salary

  • A newly-qualified physiotherapist working for an animal physiotherapy clinic may earn about £20,000 – rising to £50,000 with experience or owning your own practice.

Qualifications of a Animal physiotherapist

  • An animal physiotherapist must first qualify as a chartered physiotherapist with humans.
  • This involves a three or four-year degree course, followed by two years of work before either completing the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy (ACPAT) Core Knowledge and Skills course, or taking a part-time MSc/Postgraduate Diploma in Veterinary Physiotherapy run by The Royal Veterinary College.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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