Animal physiotherapist


Animal physiotherapists provide a therapeutic treatment following veterinary diagnosis or referral. They concentrate on the application of physical therapy and exercise procedures to support animal rehabilitation after a surgery or an injury, aiming to return the animals to normal function and/or maintain performance inaccordance with national legislation.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to animal physiotherapist:

animal physical threapist
veterinary physiotherapist

Minimum qualifications

Doctoral or equivalent level is generally required to work as animal physiotherapist. However, this requirement may differ in some countries.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Animal physiotherapist is a Skill level 4 occupation.

Animal physiotherapist career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to animal physiotherapist.

animal chiropractor
animal osteopath
animal behaviourist
official veterinarian
general veterinarian

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of animal physiotherapist. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of animal physiotherapist with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of animal physiotherapist.

Biosecurity related to animals: Awareness of hygiene and bio-security measures when working with animals, including causes, transmission and prevention of diseases and use of policies, materials and equipment.
Signs of animal illness: Physical, behavioural and environmental signs of health and ill health in various animals.
Animal welfare legislation: The legal boundaries, codes of professional conduct, national and EU regulatory frameworks and legal procedures of working with animals and living organisms, ensuring their welfare and health.
Animal welfare: Universally recognized animal welfare needs as applied to species, situation and occupation. These are:

need for a suitable environment
need for a suitable diet
need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals
need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

Physiology of animals: The study of the mechanical, physical, bioelectrical and biochemical functioning of animals, their organs and their cells.
Environmental enrichment for animals: Types, methods and use of enrichment for animals to allow the expression of natural behaviour, including the provision of environmental stimuli, feeding activities, puzzles, items for manipulation, social and training activities.
Anatomy of animals: The study of animal body parts, their structure and dynamic relationships, on a level as demanded by the specific occupation.
Animal behaviour: The natural behavioural patterns of animals, i.e. how normal and abnormal behaviour might be expressed according to species, environment, human-animal interaction and occupation.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of animal physiotherapist.

Manage animal biosecurity: Plan and use appropriate biosafety measures to prevent transmission of diseases and ensure effective overall biosecurity. Maintain and follow biosecurity procedures and infection control when working with animals, including recognising potential health issues and taking appropriate action, communicating site hygiene control measures and biosecurity procedures, as well as reporting to others.
Assess the animal’s rehabilitation requirements: Assess the animal’s rehabilitation requirements in accordance with its current condition and according to referral from a veterinary surgeon, taking into account pre-existing health conditions e.g. diabetes, epilepsy and medication.
Protect health and safety when handling animals: Protect health and welfare of animals and their handlers.
Prepare animal therapy equipment: Ensure that animal therapy equipment is assembled and prepared for use, including personal protective equipment.
Manage animal welfare: Plan, manage and evaluate the application of the five universally recognised animal welfare needs as appropriate to species, situation and own occupation.
Apply safe work practices in a veterinary setting: Apply safe work practices in a veterinary setting in order to identify hazards and associated risks so as to prevent accidents or incidents. This includes injury from animals, zoonotic diseases, chemicals, equipment and work environments.
Plan physical rehabilitation of animals: Develop a plan for the handling of animals undergoing physical rehabilitation treatment, considering: age, species, breed, temperament, surroundings, prior experiences, owner’s influence, current health status, clinical history, prescribed drugs and their effects, reason for referral for rehabilitation treatment, external influences including interaction with humans and other animals, and welfare requirements. Formulate a rehabilitation treatment plan, following referral from a veterinary surgeon.
Manage animal hygiene: Plan and use appropriate hygiene measures to prevent transmission of diseases and ensure an effective overall hygiene. Maintain and follow hygiene procedures and regulations when working with animals, communicate site hygiene controls and protocols to others. Manage the safe disposal of waste according to destination and local regulations.
Manage personal professional development: Take responsibility for lifelong learning and continuous professional development. Engage in learning to support and update professional competence. Identify priority areas for professional development based on reflection about own practice and through contact with peers and stakeholders.
Handle veterinary emergencies: Handle unforeseen incidents concerning animals and circumstances which call for urgent action in an appropriate professional manner.
Monitor the welfare of animals: Monitor animals’ physical condition and behaviour and report any concerns or unexpected changes, including signs of health or ill-health, appearance, condition of the animals’ accommodation, intake of food and water and environmental conditions.
Use physiotherapy for treatment of animals: Adapt human physical therapy techniques to increase function and mobility of joints and muscles in animals. The goal of physical therapy for animals is to improve quality of life and decrease pain. Cooperate with veterinarians and owners to design a physiotherapy treatment and care package.

Advise on animal welfare: Prepare and provide information to individuals or groups of people on how to promote the health and well-being of animals, and how risks to animal health and welfare may be reduced. Provide recommendations for corrective actions.
Deal with challenging people: Work safely and communicate effectively with individuals and groups of people who are in challenging circumstances. This would include recognition of signs of aggression, distress, threatening and how to address them to promote personal safety and that of others.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of animal physiotherapist. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of animal physiotherapist. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

Provide mentorship: Guide and support less knowledgeable or less experienced colleagues.

ISCO group and title

2264 – Physiotherapists





  1. Animal physiotherapist – ESCO
Last updated on August 8, 2022

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