Finding a qualified Physiotherapist / Hydrotherapist

Written by:   Sarah Lewis (BSc CVPhys MIRVAP CERP CertEdVPT)
(Physiotherapist, New Era Veterinary Hospital)
15 December 2017

Dog fitness and rehabilitation is now catching up with the human field and owners and the veterinary profession are understanding the benefits. This is AMAZING, the more owners and professionals who know about this field means the more animals will avoid injury, quicker return to function when they are injured and increase the older dog’s quality of life.

It has, however, led to a lot of confusion about the level of training that practitioners have.  Here in the UK the term animal or veterinary physiotherapist is not a protected title, and anyone can use the term.  This has resulted in people advertising that they are ‘Animal’ or ‘Veterinary Physiotherapists’ without adequate training after attending a 6-month course with no previous degree or experience with animals.

Sarah Lewis at New Era Veterinary Hospital

What is the difference between a Physiotherapist and a Hydrotherapist?

A qualified Animal Physiotherapist has a degree in Human Physiotherapy or a suitable animal science to Level 6 study and graduated with at least a Second-class honours (2:1) degree.  To become an animal Physiotherapist the next step would be to then complete a 2 year post graduate course in Animal Physiotherapy which can be completed through various Universities taught to Level 7 (Masters level).  Hydrotherapy is taught as a module on these courses.

A Canine Hydrotherapist is a practitioner who has completed a course in Hydrotherapy.  This can range between a 10 day to 6-month course from Level 3 to Level 5.

As you can see the level of study is vastly difference and much higher on the Physiotherapy side.  There is simply not enough time on the hydrotherapy course to cover in depth anatomy, physiology and biomechanics which is the ground work of any physiotherapist.  The second year of study during physiotherapy involves over 100 hours of practical experience with a suitably qualified practitioner who has completed Clinical educator training.

A Qualified Physiotherapist has to attend 25 hours relevant continual personal development (CPD) a year to maintain their membership whereas a hydrotherapist does not.

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Sarah 3

How do you know your therapist is suitably qualified for the job?

Check the credentials of the practitioner before attending.

Every practitioner should be a part of a governing body (e.g. IRVAP) to ensure codes of practice are adhered to and they are suitably insured. This also means that the practitioner is suitably qualified for their role.

If your dog has an injury then they need to be referred by a vet prior to seeing a professional, otherwise the practitioner is breaking the law. Further if there is an active injury your pet needs to be seen by a licensed, degree qualified, professional.

Some insurance companies do not cover physiotherapy if not carried out by a suitably qualified practitioner.

RAMP Register of animal Musculoskeletal Practitioners.

As currently the animal physiotherapy, Chiropractic and Osteopath industry is not regulated there is a new register which owners and veterinary professionals can use to check whether the professional is suitable qualified.  The RAMP register brings together practitioners who work within their scope of practice and have demonstrated a professional level of education and clinical experience.  Only qualified Physiotherapists, Chiropractors and Osteopaths can be added to the register.

Below is a list of qualifications:


ACPAT: The Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy 

IRVAP : Institute Registered Veterinary Animal Physiotherapists

NAVP: National Association Veterinary Physiotherapists

IAAT: International Association of Animal Therapists.

CCRP: Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner


CHA : Canine Hydrotherapy association

NARCH: National Association Registered Canine Hydrotherapists

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